Carl Olof Rosenius – Sing to God With Thankfulness (1850)

by Pastor Adrian Jervis, EFK from the blog A Brit On Thin Ice

Carl Olof Rosenius (1816-1868) was a pioneer leader in the 19th C. Swedish revival and was a key figure in establishing the Evangeliska Fosterlands-Stiftelsen in 1856, a mission organization within the Swedish Lutheran Church which still exists today.

Rosenius preaching in Betlehemkyrkan, the first EFS Church in Sweden. The photo is believed to be taken between 1864-1867.

Carl Olof Rosenius – Sing With Thankfulness to God (1850)

Translated from a section entitled,” Sjung med tacksamhet till Gud”, on p. 27-29 in Chapter 2 of Hellström, I. and Nilsson, T. (ed). (1975) C.O. Rosenius för vår tid – ny redigering av Samlade skrifter Moderniserat språk, Bok 5- Guds Ande och ord, EFS-förlaget, Klippan

The chapter original appeared in the newspaper Pietisten in 1850.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Now the apostle also says that we should sing with thankfulness to God in our hearts [Rosenius started this article by quoting the verse above, ed.]. We should also use spiritual songs to build ourselves up. And songs can be a rich source of blessing in regard to reviving us, lifting us up and recalibrating the broken mind. It can give peace to our hearts and fill us with joy in the middle of all valley of tears, opposition and distress. How often has it not been a spiritual song that drives away darkness form the soul? Or how often has it not been that a hard and closed heart melts and comes to its senses through a song! And how often is it not a song that stays in the mind when you have forgotten everything that is preached. Luther’s enemies complained that he shook the Catholic church more with his songs than with all his sermons.

On the value of songs, church father Basil has said, “when the Holy Spirit knew how hard it is to change the human mind to that which is holy and good, whilst we are more than willing to do that belongs to our nature, what did he do? He united the glory of song with the richness of the teaching he wants to give. In this way, we – without really noticing it – take on board the teaching, whilst also enjoying the song. To make an unwilling patient take his medicine an understanding doctor can put honey on the rim of the glass. So, the melody of the hymnbook can attract young people who only like songs to receive good teaching that blesses them without them realising it”.

Church father, Augustine, also speaks beautifully about the power and blessing of songs. “O Lord,” he says, “how have I not been overtaken in my innermost being by your church’s psalms and songs. They have gone through my eyes and your truth has melted my heart. They have set it on fire and drawn it into devotion so that the tears have run down my cheeks. How glorious were not those tears”.

But here the apostle has an important thing to add: “Sing with thankfulness to God in your hearts. But that does not mean you should not sing with your mouth. But he means that we should not only sing with our mouths and not only for people around us, but as he says in another passage, “I will praise with my spirit (in my heart for the Lord), but I shall also praise with my mind (with such a voice that others can hear and understand it)” (1 Cor 14:15). If the hymn we sing expresses our longing, prayer or thankfulness but you only sing it with your lips and your heart is not in it, it is plain hypocrisy. There is also a danger that we become focused on the song’s volume and the clarity of the harmonies etc. that in the end it is just a song – without the heart, without meaning, without the spirit.

Many sing spiritual songs and want it to be like a sign of their spiritual understanding. But their hearts have no part in what they sing with their lips. Such songs are just religious entertainment for those that sing but for God it is an abomination. Lütkemann [probably Joachim Lütkemann, a German Lutheran theologian, who lived 1608-1655, ed.] was right when he said that Christians should not sing in any other way that how they pray, that is, with right devotion and fear of the Lord. Augustine says the same thing when he wrote, “If I sing in such a way that I am proud of the beautiful tone more than over the content of the song, it would be a great shame. I would prefer to avoid singing and listen than to do it without the right attitude”.

But what a blessing it is – for both ourselves and others – if through an uplifting song that builds us up that we also let Christ’s word dwell in us richly. What peace and joy in the Holy Spirit and what a power against all temptations is available to those who themselves up in song – where it is possible – during their daily work. “Is one of you glad? Then you shall sing songs”, says James. When humans suffer under yoke of the law, you will hear no songs. But where the gospel starts to take root, songs will pour out all by themselves.

Hieronymus talks about such a blessed time and encouragement when he says, “You may look wherever you will, and you will meet farmers behind their plough singing a joyful “Hallelujah!”. The diligent harvester hums songs of praise and the one who treads wine sings some of David’s psalms. These are our songs of love. It sounds from the shepherds in the fields and the farmers equip themselves with them.”

Text and music to Rosenius’ hymn ”With God and His Mercy” from a 1901 Lutheran songbook.

A Hymn by Carl Olof Rosenius – Med Gud och hans vänskap (1851)

Rosenius wrote many hymns, of which 25 appeared in the Pietisten, as well as translating others into Swedish. His most famous hymn is arguably “Med Gud och hans vänskap”, literally, “With God and his friendship”, which is considered by many to be the hymn of the 1800s revival. It was written in 1851 and the tune was by Oscar Arnfelt. It was translated into English by Ernest W. Olson (1870-1958), a Swedish immigrant to the USA and would later be editor of the book publishing company that produced the nine verse version of Rosenius’ hymn (below). Olson gave it the the title ”With God and His Mercy” and this version was published in 1901, the earliest known edition of Olson’s translation, according to website.

If you wish to listen to it in Swedish click here.


With God and His mercy, His Spirit and Word
And loving communion at altar and board,
We meet with assurance the dawn of each day:
The Shepherd is with us,
The Shepherd is with us,
To lead and protect us and teach us the way.


In perilous times, amid tempests and night,
A band presses on, through the gloom toward light,
Though humble, and meek, and disowned by the world,
They follow the Saviour,
They follow the Saviour,
And march on to glory, with banners unfurled.


While groveling worldlings with dross are content,
And ever on sin and transgression are bent,
I follow, victorious hosts, at your word,
And march on to glory,
And march on to glory,
We march on to glory, our captain, the Lord.


The sign of the cross I triumphantly bear,
Though none of my kindred that emblem may wear,
I joyfully follow the champions of right,
Who march on to glory,
Who march on to glory,
Who march on to glory, with weapons of might.


The Pillar that guides us through peril and strife,
The Rock that is cleft, giving waters of life,
Is Christ, and His cross. By His Spirit and Word,
The heart He refreshes,
The heart He refreshes,
The heart He refreshes, our Saviour and Lord.


Though Satan may sift me, and sinning brings death,
Yet will I hold fast, till my last dying breath,
The glorious truth of the consecrate Son,
Who died for the many,
Who died for the many,
And suffering death, our atonement has won.


I know that in spite of transgression and sin
God’s heart bears for sinners but mercy within,
For Christ for mankind has full righteousness won,
The One for the many,
The One for the many,
The One for the world standing righteous alone.


Yea, this is the ground for my comfort and joy,
In moments when doubt seeks my faith to destroy;
Whenever my body and soul be oppressed
I flee to thy presence,
I flee to Thy presence,
And find in Thy presence protection and rest.


O Shepherd, abide with us, care for us still,
And feed us and lead us and teach us Thy will
And when in Thy heavenly fold we shall be,
Our thanks and our praises,
Our thanks and our praises,
Our thanks and our praises we’ll render to Thee.

From Hymnal and Order of Service: for churches and Sunday-schools #196, originally published in 1901 by the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod of North America, Rock Island, Illinois.ANNONS