Make Me a Captive, Lord

Full Text

1 Make me a captive, Lord,
and then I shall be free;
force me to render up my sword,
and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life's alarms
when by myself I stand;
imprison me within thine arms,
and strong shall be my hand.

2 My heart is weak and poor
until it master find;
it has no spring of action sure,
it varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
till thou hast wrought its chain;
enslave it with thy matchless love,
and deathless it shall reign.

3 My power is faint and low
till I have learned to serve;
it lacks the needed fire to glow,
it lacks the breeze to nerve;
it cannot drive the world
until itself be driven;
its flag can only be unfurled
when thou shalt breathe from heaven.

4 My will is not my own
till thou hast made it thine;
if it would reach a monarch's throne,
it must its crown resign;
it only stands unbent
amid the clashing strife,
when on thy bosom it has leant,
and found in thee its life.

Source: Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #534

Author: George Matheson

Matheson, George, D.D., was born at Glasgow, March 27, 1842, and although deprived of his eyesight in youth he passed a brilliant course at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated M.A. in 1862. In 1868 he became the parish minister at Innellan; and subsequently of St. Bernard's, Edinburgh. He was the Baird Lecturer in 1881, and St. Giles Lecturer in 1882. He has published several important prose works. His poetical pieces were collected and published in 1890 as Sacred Songs, Edinburgh: W. Blackwood. In addition to his hymn "O Love that wilt not let me go" (q. v.), four others from his Sacred Songs are in Dr. A. C. Murphey's Book of Common Song, Belfast, 1890. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)… Go to person page >


Scripture References:
st. 1 = 2 Cor. 12:9-10, Rom. 6:18, 22
st. 2 = Phil. 4:13

This text is the finest example of sustained use of paradox in the Psalter Hymnal. It is built on a series of paradoxes that amplify the New Testament concept of freedom, which can be achieved only by being a servant, or prisoner, of Christ (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10). By their cumulative effect the contrasts between "captive" and "free"; "sink" and "stand"; "my own" and "thine"; "unbent" and "leaned" grip our imagination and powerfully affirm our servanthood to Christ.

George Matheson (b. Glasgow, Scotland, 1842; d. North Berwick, Scotland, 1906) wrote the text during his stay at Row, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, in 1890. It was pub¬lished that same year in his collection of poems and hymns, Sacred Songs, with the heading, "Christian freedom: Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ (Eph. 3: 1)." The four short-meter stanzas are taken from the first and fourth stanzas of Matheson's original short-meter-double text.

A brilliant student of philosophy at the University of Glasgow and its divinity school, Matheson wrote several important theological and devotional works, including Aids to the Study of German Theology (1874). This achievement is especially noteworthy because of his failing eyesight during his teen years and virtual blindness by the age of eighteen. He had to rely on others, especially his sisters, for all his reading, research, and writing. Matheson was a very able preacher, serving Presbyterian churches in Glasgow; Clydeside Church in Innellan, Argyllshire (1868-1886); and finally St. Bernard's Church in Edinburgh (1886-1899).

Liturgical Use:
Many occasions of worship, especially after the sermon; adult baptism; profession of faith; ordination; times of testimony to the joy of being "captives" of Christ.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



George William Martin (b. London, England, 1825; d. London, 1881) composed LEOMINSTER, named for a town in the county of Hereford and Worcester (formerly Herefordshire), England. The tune was first published in The Journal of Part Music (vol. 2, 1862), in which it was titled THE PILGRIM'S SONG. Mart…

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Samuel Howard (b. London, England, 1710; d. London, 1782) composed ST. BRIDE as a setting for Psalm 130 in William Riley's London psalter, Parochial Harmony (1762). The melody originally began with "gathering" notes at the beginning of each phrase. The tune's title is a contraction of St. Bridget, t…

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Instances (1 - 20 of 20)Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
Ambassador Hymnal: for Lutheran worship #470
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #278TextAudioPage Scan
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #534TextPage Scan
Common Praise: A new edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern #518Page Scan
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Hymnal: A Worship Book #539
Hymns and Psalms: a Methodist and ecumenical hymn book #714
Hymns of Faith #362TextPage Scan
Moravian Book of Worship #604TextPage Scan
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #378Text
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #546Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreAudio
Rejoice in the Lord #442TextPage Scan
Sing Joyfully #409TextPage Scan
Small Church Music #381Audio
The Cyber Hymnal #4144TextScoreAudio
The United Methodist Hymnal #421TextFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
The Worshiping Church #583TextAudioPage Scan
Together in Song: Australian hymn book II #604
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #687TextPage Scan
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Include 77 pre-1979 instances