By: A. C. Bridges (Originally printed in the July 1984 The ARP Magazine.)
My Hope is Built on Nothing Less – No. 368 in The Hymnbook and No. 582 in Trinity Hymnal – is a familiar one in this country wherever hymns are sung. It is a hymn of Christian assurance and is found in that section in Trinity Hymnal. One finds assurance in “Jesus’ blood and righteousness.:
Originally the hymn was published by the author, Edward Mote (1797-1874), in six stanzas, with the first verse as follows:
Nor earth nor hell my soul can move,
I rest upon unchanging love;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.”
Another stanza which has been omitted is as follows:
I trust His righteous character,
His council, promise, and His power;
His honor and His Name at stake
To save me from the burning lake.
The hymn has been changed in various ways since it was first printed about 1834.
The author tells that one morning as he went to work he decided to write a hymn on the “Gracious Experience of a Christian,” and that soon the chorus came to his mind. On the following Sabbath, he met a gentleman whose wife was very ill, who asked the author to come and visit her. In the home in which he visited it was the custom to sing a hymn, read a portion of Scripture and then have a prayer. That day he could not find his hymnbook so the author took these verses he had in his pocket and they sang this hymn. The lady enjoyed the lines so much, her husband asked him to leave a copy. The author went home and wrote the last two stanzas and took them to the lady.
Since the stanzas seemed so comforting to that lady, Mote had 1,000 copies printed for distribution and he sent one to the Spiritual Magazine. Sometime after this, the author’s name began to appear with the hymn, and it was on its way to be used to give assurance to others.
Mote was born in London. At the age of 55, he entered the Baptist ministry. In 1836 he published Hymns of Praise which contained about 100 of his compositions.
Theologically, Mote was a Calvinist, and it has been said his hymns are largely an anthology of Calvinistic praise.
His pastorate in Sussex, which lasted 21 years, saw the building of a church – and out of gratitude to him, the congregation offered him the deed to the property. He refused the gift saying, “I do not want the chapel. I only want the pulpit; and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that.”
The tune to which the hymn is set in The Hymnbook and in most other hymnals is Solid Rock, composed by William B. Bradbury (1816-1868), and it was composed for this hymn in 1863.
Bradbury studied organ and piano under Lowell Mason and spent much time teaching, composing, and conducting music festivals. He was associated with the publication of 59 collections of sacred and secular music. In 1854 he joined his brother, E.G. Bradbury, in establishing Bradbury Piano Co. (Some readers may still have an old Bradbury piano). His tunes are still in common use; nine are in The Hymnbook and 13 in the Trinity Hymnal.
The tune to which the hymn is set in Trinity Hymnal is St. Petersburg. This tune is excellent music but it will doubtless never replace the more familiar tune for this hymn.
St. Petersburg is said to be adapted from a portion of a mass by Dimitry S. Bortniansky (1752-1825). It was in a number of German collections.
Bortnianski, a Russian composer, became a chorister in the Imperial Chapel at St. Petersburg and was later director of the same choir. He was so distinguished as a composer of sacred music that someone has called him the Russian Palestrina. His works, published in 10 volumes, were edited by Tschaikovsky.
This hymn can be found in The Hymnal #368 and in the Trinity Hymnal #521 and #522.
If you would like to hear the tune and the read verses in full, click here.