Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 8, 2008

Before the Throne of God Above, Charitie Bancroft

One of the more outstanding hymn texts with which I am familiar is “Before the Throne of God Above.” The author, Charitie Lees Smith, was born in 1841 in the vicinity of Dublin, Ireland. She was the daughter of a minister of the Church of Ireland. Not much is known about her life, but it appears that she was widowed twice: although she married Arthur Bancroft in 1869, she died under the name Charitie de Cheney in California in 1923. Charitie published her poetry in leaflet form as early as 1860, and a number of her collected works were eventually published as Within the Veil in 1867. “Before the Throne” was written in 1863 under the title “The Advocate.”

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea. (Heb 4:15-16)
A great High Priest whose Name is Love (Heb 4:14)
Who ever lives and pleads for me. (Heb 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands, (Isa 49:16)
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart. (Rom 8:34)

When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)
Who made an end of all my sin. (Col 2:13-14)
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me. (Rom 3:24-26)

Behold Him there the risen Lamb, (Rev 5:6)
My perfect spotless righteousness, (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
The great unchangeable I AM, (Heb 13:8; John 8:58)
The King of glory and of grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood, (Acts 20:28)
My life is hid with Christ on high, (Col 3:3)
With Christ my Savior and my God! (Tit 2:13)

“Before the Throne of God Above” draws heavily from Scripture for its pictures and language. It is a hymn which finds its theme in the perfect security which believers find in Christ, Who intercedes for them “before the throne of God above.” The following Scriptures find echoes in the song, whether Charitie is drawing conceptually from them or merely using their language.

Hebrews 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (“a great High Priest”, st. 1, and general conceptual background)

Hebrews 7:25: “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (“Who ever lives and pleads for me,” st. 1)

Isaiah 49:16a: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” (“My name is written on His hands,” st. 1)

Romans 8:34: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (“I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart,” st. 1)

In verse 2, Charitie may have had the following texts in mind:

Luke 22:31-32a: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (“When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,” st. 2)

Acts 7:55-56: “But [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (“Upward I look and see Him there,” st. 2)

Col. 2:13-14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (“Who made an end to all my sin,” st. 2)

Roman 3:24-26: “. . . and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (“God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me,” v. 2)

Likewise, verse 3:

Rev. 5:6: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (“Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,” st. 2)

1 Cor. 1:30: “[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (“My perfect spotless righteousness,” st. 2)

1 Peter 1:18-19: “. . . knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (“spotless,” st. 2)

Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (“unchangeable,” st. 2)

John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” (“I AM,” st. 2)

Acts 20:28: “. . . the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (“my soul is purchased by His blood,” st. 2)

Col. 3:3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (“My life is hid with Christ on high,” st. 3)

Titus 2:13: “. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (“Christ my Savior and my God,” st. 3)

Bradley McKenzie has translated the hymn into German:

Vor Gottes Thron tritt Jesus Christ
stark und vollkommen für mich ein,
Der, dessen Name „Liebe” ist,
der ew’ge Hohepriester mein.
In Jesu und des Vaters Hand
bin ich geborgen immerfort,
und dank des Geistes Unterpfand
kann keiner scheiden mich von Gott.

Wenn Satan wegen meiner Schuld
Verzweiflung oft in mir entfacht,
schau’ ich auf Den, durch dessen Huld
der Sünde wurd’ ein End’ gemacht.
Da sündlos Schuld ans Kreuz Er trug,
gelt’ ich als frei nun ewiglich.
Gott, dem Gerechten, ist’s genug:
Er sieht den Sohn, begnadigt mich.

Sieh dort das Lamm, das auferstand,
vollkommen in Gerechtigkeit.
Als der „Ich Bin” ist Er bekannt,
der Herr der Gnad’ und Herrlichkeit.
In Ihm verborgen sterb’ ich nie!
Sein Blut erkaufte mich vom Tod.
Ich leb’ mit Christus in der Höh’.
Er ist mein Heiland und mein Gott.

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Responses

  1. Chuck, this is one my favorite hymns that the folks at Sovereign Grace have put to new music. You can listen to a snippet here, but I know you personally would appreciate the score here.

  2. [...] If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. You can also subscribe by e-mail. Thanks for visiting!Chuck Bumgardner highlights this excellent hymn text. [...]

  3. I linked to your post as reference for mine, because it was so beautifully written. This is the first time I’ve visited your blog, and I am glad that I found it. What a treasure of information!

    Xandra

  4. The Lord gave me the joy of translating this song into German and having it published and recorded last year. Translating songs well can be very challenging. Because the line “My name is graven on His hands, My name is written on His heart.” does not have primary reference to believers in the church age, I translated it “In Jesus’ and the Father’s hand I am secure for evermore.” And because despite hours of effort I could not arrive at a suitable translation of “I know that while in Heaven He stands No tongue can bid me thence depart.”, I settled instead for “Thanks to the Spirit’s surety, no one can sever me from God.” I was uncertain of the meaning of “One in [or with] Himself.” I suppose it means that He is consistent with His own character, but I could find nothing in the Bible with that wording. (Perhaps someone has an idea.) In any event, the German translation now renders the last lines of the song with similarity to Colossians 3:2-4: “Hidden in Christ I never die. His blood has purchased me from death. I live with Christ [in heaven] above. He is my Savior and my God.” The song has become our co-worker Kevin Matthia’s favorite and is often requested by teens at our youth camps.

    • many thanks Bradley. where/when were the German words published?
      I should very much like to use them in our worship.

  5. Thanks for this!

  6. Chuck,

    What hymn tune do you use with this text?

    Nathan

  7. Hi, Nathan,

    Our church has used Vicki Cook’s tune (sorry, don’t know the name of the tune), adapted by one of our pastors. I’ll send you a pdf so you can see it.

  8. [...] bible knowldege (both doctrinal and practical), persecuted and yet fainted not.  I found this from Orchard Keeper and I also inserted some verses I believe that also corresponds to so the song.  May you be [...]

  9. Sadly, my husband and I were notified on Monday, June 8, 2010, of the death of our son, Spencer, from a drug overdose, the night before.

    We are planning his funeral. In church today we sang this powerful hymn “Before the Throne of God Above”. We will be using it, as well as,”He Lifts Me Up”, sung by Josh Grobin.

    Any other suggestions for a believer’s funeral? pat m.

  10. Thank you. We will use “It is Well With My Soul”.
    Yes, The Truth trumps feelings and emotions every time.
    patricia miller

  11. Thanks for this, Chuck. Thanks to you we’ll sing this in a few days (to the tune of DUKE STREET): http://www.firstbaptistgranitefalls.org/music/BeforeTheThroneOfGodAbove.pdf

  12. [...] http://cbumgardner.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/before-the-throne-of-god-above-charitie-bancroft/ [...]

  13. [...] Before the Throne of God Above, Charitie Bancroft May 2008 12 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com, 3 [...]

  14. I came across this blog while searching for the meaning behind this old hymn “Before the Throne of God Above.” I really like the way you used Scripture to explain the meaning. With your permission, I would like to link to your blog via my own blog. I plan on writing about this hymn in one of my future posts.

  15. My wife & I were wondering this morning about the question you ask, “What’s the scriptural basis for ‘My name is written on His heart.’?” Here’s the closest we came: Isaiah 49:16, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Hope that helps.

  16. Hi, Gene,

    If I could back up a step…

    I agree with Bradley’s comment up above that “My name is graven on his hands” (cf. Isa 49:16) does not have primary reference to believers in the church age. Having said that, using this striking language to describe something true about the church is, I believe, a legitimate exercise. Scripture does the same thing at times.

    As to “My name is written on his heart,” I do not believe that Charitie is using the direct phraseology of Scripture for this line. All the same, the vivid imagery is, I believe, not uncalled for. In our own idiom, the “heart” is the seat of the affections, and the love of God for his people (throughout Scripture) and Christ for his church (in the NT) is clearly evidenced. Romans 8:35-39 and Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:4-6; 5:25-27 come immediately to mind.

    Now, if I could take it a step further…

    The imagery of one’s name carved on God’s hands is clearly and vividly communicating that God will not and cannot forget that person. Having something written on one’s heart may be taking things a step further — this is internal, not external. Consider in this connection the imagery of something being written on the heart as an evidence of permanence and internalizing something in Pro 3:3; 7:3; Jer 17:1; 2 Cor 3:3. Notice also that in the Proverbs references, the language seems to be intensified by means of a move from the external to the internal:
    “bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (3:3)
    “bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart” (7:3)

  17. Try singing it to the old Sankey tune, ‘Saved by Grace’.

  18. I had seen this post before and was encouraged by it, but coming back to it I now see this as a treasure for Christ’s body, particularly given the resurgence of it’s popularity since re-recorded by Shane and Shane (and others). “Receive these gifts knowing that Christ died for you, and feed on Him in your hearts with grace and thanksgiving” thanks very much for this, Orchard Keeper

  19. This hymn has long been one of my favorites for it’s beauty and power. Thank you for this article!

    I have a question, and I don’t know if you can help me, but I’m having trouble finding an answer anywhere else. I have written a novel, and am in the process of getting it self-published. At one point in the book, I use the words of this hymn. Are the words copyrighted? If so, how do I go about getting permission to use them?

  20. The words are old enough that in my estimation you should have no problem quoting them without getting formal permission from anyone. As I recall, written texts move into public domain after 76 years.

    • Thank you very much!

  21. I made a music arrangement and a video, and gave you the credits of the Scripture quotes. You can see it here http://youtu.be/-H5Kmsk3_mk

    • Thanks, Manuel. Watching your video brought to light an typographical error in the text: I took the text from Cyberhymnal, but they mistakenly put “One in Himself I cannot die” instead of the correct text “One with Himself I cannot die”. I checked a hymnal much closer to the time of the hymn’s composing, Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymn-Book, and confirmed that “with Himself” is the correct text (see song 567 in that hymnal)

  22. [...] in the Christian scheme of things.  For more information on the author, and her hymn, link to a great resource RIGHT HERE. TTFN [...]

  23. [...] This has quickly become one of my favorite hymns to sing. It was written by Charitie Lees Smith in 1863 and has some beautiful words that are found all throughout the scriptures. Here are the verses of the hymn with the scripture references beside it. Click here for a more in depth look at this hymn. Click here for a more in depth look at this hymn. [...]

  24. [...] HT: Chuck Bumgardner [...]

  25. [...] of pianist Allan Hall, capture listeners’ hearts as they interpret this precious Celtic hymn.Charitie Lees Smith, the author of the hymn, titled it “The Advocate” when it was first published in 1863. [...]

  26. [...] This song was on one their albums, and although the tune is relatively new (it was originally sung to the tune of Sweet Hour of Prayer), the lyrics are not. They were written in 1863 by Charitie Bancroft. I was looking for information about this hymn, and found a great post at the Orchard Keeper. [...]

  27. [...] credit goes to this post for starting me off of these [...]

  28. Reblogged this on .

  29. […] and deserves to be lingered over, savored. Or witness the well-known Charitie Bancroft’s “Before the Throne of God Above.” I’m leading our choir this coming Sunday in singing Faye Lopez’s arrangement of this […]

  30. a fine Hymn but Christ’s name is not Love ,God is Love, 1 john 4:8, but that is not His name ,just saying

    • Hi, Chris,

      You are correct, Jesus’ name (to my knowledge) is not ever formally stated to be “Love” in the Scriptures. However, I think we are justified when we speak of Jesus to use metaphorical language to express truth about him. By saying “whose name is Love”, I think the author is not trying to say that “Love” is a formal appellation given to Jesus, so much as she is trying to say that love identifies Christ, particularly in his role as high priest. I would imagine she gets that idea from passages such as Hebrews 2-4.


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