Make Me a Captive Lord

This is probably familiar to most of you, but in case it isn't I want to share it here - one of my favourite hymns.

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.

heart is weak and poor until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure, it varies with the
It cannot freely move till Thou has wrought its chain;
Enslave it with Thy matchless love, and deathless it shall reign.

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.

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.

by George Matheson

Incidentally, another of my favourite hymns is 'O Love that Will Not let me go' which is also penned by Matheson. If anyone could speak to poverty and anguish of soul and a need for experiencing the healing, all embracing love of God, it was he. He had become engaged to be married to his sweetheart and at some point became ill. Before he was to be married, it was found that his illness would mean the loss of his eyesight - permanently. Upon hearing this news, and realizing her future spouse could not engage in meaningful, productive labour, his fiancee broke off their relationship.

Dealing with rejection is painful and difficult - I'm sure we all can attest to that. But I am inspired by the things Matheson wrote in the midst of deep pain. His words speak of heavenly, unfailing love. He tells first hand of God's embrace that is both bondage and freedom at the same time: 'Enslave it with Thy matchless love, and deathless it shall reign.' This sounds strange to unconverted ears, I suppose. But it was not a foreign concept to Paul who considered himself a bondslave of the Lord Jesus, and who also spoke of using our freedom to 'serve one another in love.'

Let Matheson inspire you too:

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.


  1. Sarah, this is a favorite of mine, too! I read years ago that the original version of stanza 3 said, "I climb the rainbow in the rain", but he was asked to change it for inclusion in a hymnal. Apparently, it was considered too childish or undignified to be climbing the rainbow! I love it and always sing Matheson's original words (I haven't heard it sung in churches in years, but we sing it at home together.) Tracing a rainbow looking through the window in the rain is nothing like grabbing hold of that glorious beauty and clinging each step upward while the rain still falls!

    1. I'm so glad you shared this with me - I'll never sing it that way again! :) I too like to honour a poet's original intent!


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