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home : columnists : columnists September 20, 2017

My hope is built on nothing less

By Teri Ditslear
Joy in the Journey

Being a pastor of a church, preaching every Sunday, and feeling responsible for a "good" church experience, my highlights of worship is much different than the person who comes to receive a blessing. My eyes light up when I see people taking notes, or taking pictures. My heart leaps for joy when I see people nodding in recognition of a truth they have experienced. I get downright giddy when people actually take time to tell me something they learned, or strike up conversation concerning the sermon topic or (gasp) ask me for a copy of my sermon. And when one of my people take the time to send a note, with research attached, in story form to share with others, my cup runneth over. Here is, with permission, my blessing of the week. Enjoy!

Pastor Teri,

I love the words to the old gospel hymn we sang Sunday, "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less." I noticed beneath the words in the bulletin that it was written in the early 1800's by an Edward Mote. As so often occurs with historical dates and figures, we neglect to consider that they were once real, flesh-and-blood human beings who got up every morning and laid their heads down every night, who gazed up at the very same sun, moon, and starry night sky just as we do. I wondered what the "story" was behind Mote's words. Sunday afternoon I did some research (not too much is available, but I used what I could find) and have been putting this (attached) together on and off this week. Others might find this of interest too.


Edward Mote and His Hymn, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

1 My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness;

No merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

Refrain: On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

2 When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace;

In ev'ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil. Refrain.

3 His oath, his covenant, his blood sustain me in the raging flood;

When all supports are washed away, he then is all my hope and stay. Refrain.

4 When he shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in him be found,

Clothed in his righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before the throne! Refrain.

Edward Mote was born and raised in the London area of England and lived from 1797-1874. Unlike most hymn writers, he was not brought up in a godly home nor was exposed to Scripture. His parents operated a pub in London and often neglected young Edward, who spent most of his Sundays playing in the city streets. He once reflected on his "theological" upbringing stating, "So ignorant was I that I did not know that there was a god."

When Edward was 15 years old, his parents apprenticed him to become a cabinetmaker. He honed his craft, and as a man, became a skilled cabinetmaker and had a successful business for 37 years. His faith journey, however, is a testimony that should inspire all Christians.

Through the influence of his cabinetmaker master, Mote attended church and came to faith through the preaching of John Hyatt (a gifted evangelical preacher who was often compared to George Whitefield, a driving influence in the Great Awakening), and was baptized at age 18. Thereafter, he devoted his free time to ministry. Mote always found time to worship and became particularly interested in Christian music and hymn writing. He was prolific in his writing and wrote more than 100 hymns. One, in particular (shown above), became one of the most beloved hymns in the church today. In 1834, while on his walk to work one day, an idea came to him to write a hymn on the "Gracious experiences of a Christian." By the time he arrived to his shop, he had finished the refrain, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." Before the day had finished, he had completed four verses. The following Sunday he visited a friend whose wife was very ill. The friend described how he and his wife liked to observe the Sabbath by singing a hymn, reading a scripture, and having prayer together. Mote pulled a copy of his hymn from his pocket, and they sang it. The friend's wife was so taken with the words that she requested a copy for herself. In 1836, he published his hymns with selections by others in a collection called Hymns of Praise, A New Selection of Gospel Hymns. The present day tune for the hymn was composed by the American gospel song composer, William Bradbury, a fellow Baptist, in 1863. The hymn appeared during the American Civil War in Bradbury's Devotional Hymn and Tune Book (1864).

The text of this hymn is packed with grace and truth, revealing a deep reflection on his salvation and the price Jesus paid on Mote's behalf. The refrain, My hope is built on nothing less, refers to the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt. 7:24-27) and was constructed around the metaphor of Christ as a rock. The first stanza declares God's grace. Mote recognizes that our hope for eternal life depends completely upon Jesus' righteousness. We have nothing of human merit to offer. Stanzas 2 and 3 concern the application of that grace in times of trouble - when the doubts, cares, and darkness of the world weaken our fellowship with God and veil His face from us. Despite such doubts, God has not left us; He sustains us. It is precisely at such times we need to "rest on His unchanging grace." The final stanza brings the hymn full circle with the ultimate realization of God's grace, when we stand before God's throne clothed in the righteousness of Christ! When we seize such objective truth on which to build a life and future hope, "all other ground is sinking sand."

In 1852, at the age of 55, Mote realized a life-long dream. He laid down his cabinetry tools and responded to a call to formal ministry. He ministered as the pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church in Horsham, West Sussex. For the next 21 years, he did not miss a Sunday in the pulpit. He resigned from his pastorate in 1873 due to poor health and died the following year at the age of 77. The beloved pastor was buried in the churchyard. Just prior to his death he said, "The truths I have been preaching, I am now living upon, and they do very well to die upon." Near the pulpit in the church is a tablet with the inscription, "In loving memory of Mr. Edward Mote, who fell asleep in Jesus November 13th 1874, aged 77 years. For 21 years the beloved pastor of this church, preaching Christ and Him crucified, as all the sinner can need, and all the saint desire."

Noblesville's Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at pastor@rolcommunity.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com

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