32. How Blest Are They Whose Trespass

1 How blest are they whose trespass
has freely been forgiven,
whose sins are wholly covered
before the sight of heaven.
Blest they to whom the LORD God
does not impute their sin,
who have a guileless spirit,
whose heart is true within.

2 While I kept guilty silence,
my strength was spent with grief:
your hand was heavy on me;
my soul found no relief.
But when I owned my trespass
and did not hide my sin,
then you forgave my guilt, LORD,
restored my life within.

3 So let the godly seek you
in times when you are near;
no whelming floods shall reach them
or cause their hearts to fear.
O LORD, you are my refuge,
you are my hiding place,
and you surround me always
with songs of saving grace.

4 "I graciously will teach you
the way that you should go,
and, with my eye upon you,
help you my counsel know.
Then do not be unruly
or slow to understand;
be not perverse, but willing
to heed my wise command."

5 The sorrows of the wicked
increase from year to year,
but those who trust the LORD God
know love instead of fear.
Then in the LORD be joyful,
in song lift up your voice;
be glad in God, you righteous:
rejoice, O saints, rejoice!

Text Information
First Line: How blest are they whose trespass
Title: How Blest Are They Whose Trespass
Publication Date: 1987
Meter: 76 76 D
Topic: New Year - Old Year; Confession of Sin; Forgiveness (2 more...)
Source: Psalter, 1912, alt.
Language: English
Tune Information
Arranger: Edward F. Rimbault (1867)
Composer: Chrétien Urhan (1834)
Meter: 76 76 D
Key: F Major

Text Information:

A testimony to the blessedness of the forgiven and an exhortation to the trust, obedience, and joyful worship that should mark their lives.

Scripture References:
st. 1 =vv. 1-2
st. 2 =vv. 3-5
st. 3 = vv. 6-7
st. 4 = vv. 8-9
st. 5 =vv. 10-11

Psalm 32 is traditionally considered a penitential psalm (along with 6, 38, 51,102, 130, and 143). In the sequence of spiritual experience it follows the situation depicted in Psalm 51, the great plea for forgiveness. That psalm's traditional association with David's sin against Uriah, together with Psalm 32's reference to delayed confession, has suggested a historical link between the two. The psalm's thematic movement is noteworthy and is well represented in the versification, which is slightly altered from that of the 1912 Psalter.

The psalm begins with a testimony to the blessedness of those forgiven by God (st. 1). Retracing the spiritual movement from stubbornly denying sin to experiencing the joy of God's forgiveness (st. 2), the psalm exhorts all the godly to faithfully rely on God and reaffirms the LORD as refuge and hiding place (st. 3). Next God speaks, instructing the saints in godly obedience (st. 4). The psalm then contrasts the lot of the wicked with that of those who trust in God, and it closes with a call to the righteous to rejoice in God for his unfailing mercies (st. 5).

Liturgical Use
Though considered penitential, this psalm is properly used not so much in confession of sin as in thanksgiving for God's forgiveness of our sin. It is a joyful psalm! Within that context, the psalm could also serve as a call to confession (st. 1-3) and instruction for godly living following the assurance of pardon (st. 4-5).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

RUTHERFORD was composed by Chrétien Urhan (b. Aix-la-Chappelle, France, 1790; d. Belleville, near Paris, France, 1845). Urhan was an accomplished violin and viola player at an early age. After hearing him play his instrument in 1805, the Empress Josephine took him to Paris to study composition and strings from the best teachers. Urhan revived the importance of the viola d'amore by giving virtuoso performances on this instrument with Pierre Baillot's quartet.

A composer of chamber music and works for piano, he also served as organist of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris. In 1816 he joined the Paris Opera orchestra and became its leader in 1831. A mystic and devout Catholic, Urhan regarded his contribution to church music as the most important part of his career. Although he played in opera orchestras for some thirty years, he is reputed never to have looked at the opera itself from the orchestra pit because of his religious scruples.

RUTHERFORD originally was published in Chants Chrétien (1834). The tune became associated with Anne Ross Cousin's hymn text 'The Sands of Time Are Sinking." Cousin based her hymn on writings from the Last Words of Samuel Rutherford (1857); Rutherford was a seventeenth-century Scottish Covenant preacher. The tune was later arranged by Edward Francis Rimbault (b. Soho, London, England, 1816; d. Soho, London, 1876) and published in its present form in Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867).

Rimbault first studied with his father, organist of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, and later was a student of both Samuel Wesley and William Crotch. Various London churches employed him as organist, including St. Peter's on Vere Street, St. John's Wood Presbyterian Church, the Swiss Church in Soho, and St. Giles-in-the-Fields. Active in the Motet Society and the Handel Society, Rimbault was also one of the founders of the Musical Antiquarian Society. He edited much music, including editions of Tallis's Cathedral Service and Order of Daily Service, Merbecke' s Book of Common Prayer Noted, and Este's The Whole Book of Psalms.

RUTHERFORD consists of four long lines, each of which has its own melodic and rhythmic patterns. Sing this music with two beats per bar to get the sense of the longer textual and musical lines. Try singing in harmony, unaccompanied on one of the inner stanzas.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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