The Universe of Grace – Four new hymn texts

Please feel free to use these texts in any way you would like. They were written for congregational use but if you would like to share them in any other way, please do so. I intend to add some other hymn texts here so please check back often.


One of my favourite Bible passages is Isaiah 55 where the Jerusalem water-seller offers his most precious commodity for nothing – just as Jesus did hundreds of years later. This first poem can be sung to the lovely tune, ‘O Waly Waly’ (The Water is wide) or perhaps to Rockingham or many another melody.

Come taste and tell that God is good,
draw near and know that Christ is kind
and drink so deep the Spirit’s stream
your thirst will never rage again.

You spend your substance day by day
on food that fails to fortify:
come back and buy – no cost, no coin –
a wine of vintage old as time.

You wend no ways like God’s for grace,
you think no thoughts as his so high:
return and run the path of peace
beneath the sunshine of his smile.

As rime and rain descend and drench
the longing land to shoots of spring,
your soul shall spring to life and love
the living words we speak and sing.

Come taste and tell that God is good,
draw near and know that Christ is kind
and drink so deep the Spirit’s stream
your thirst will never rage again.


This second poem – ‘The Universe of Grace’ – can be used as a hymn to the tunes Pantyfedwen, Woodlands or Toulon or any other tune. It was suggested by a sermon on Ephesians 3:18 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and by Psalm 139 for the last two verses.

Broad as the universe, his love is broad
And wide worldwide the mercy he has wrought:
From every race the lovers of his grace
to kiss the Son have run to his embrace.

Long as the universe, his love is long:
he brought the stars to birth to angel song
and when at last the stars grow dim and die,
redeeming love will be the angels’ cry.

High as the mountain peaks, his love is high:
we raise our eyes still higher to the sky
and meets our gaze his Everest of grace
and peaks of love too high for eye to trace.

Deep as the deepest thought, his love is deep,
and deeper still than all philosophy:
the finest minds of time shall sing in praise
and tell the depth of his redeeming ways.

Safe in the womb already it was so
and at the end of time it will be told:
our years and days were written in his plan
before the moment history began.

If we should take the wings of early dawn,
if we should trace the windings of the sea,
could we escape the universe of grace
of God in Jesus? That could never be!


‘Londonderry Air’, also known as ‘Danny Boy’ is a wonderful, expansive tune and here are two sets of words to it. This first one is based on 1 Corinthians 13 – the love chapter. There is a progression through the four verses, asking that God should spur us on to seek ‘The Better Way’, having sought it to find it, and having found it, to choose it and to love it.

If we could speak all tongues of earth and heaven
but have not love our prophecy is vain;
though every mystery to us is open
to talk of love will be an empty claim.
But love is swift to clear misunderstanding,
love is not proud, insisting on display
and love is rich in patient understanding:
grant us, oh Lord of love to seek the better way.

If we should give to others when we prosper
but have not love, we fail the final test:
if we should place our substance on the altar,
our sacrifice, if boastful, is not blessed.
For love is clean and clear in its intentions,
lifts up its face to face the light of day,
love is pure harmony without pretension:
grant us, oh Lord of love to find the better way.

If by our faith we make the mountains tremble
but have not love, then nothing do we win:
we are but noisy gongs or clanging cymbals
condemned to sink to silence in the end.
But love is always faithful in rejoicing,
lifts up a song of hope that never fails
love is a choir of perfect blended voices:
grant us, oh Lord of love to choose the better way.

When we were young we fought for worldly glory,
but worldly ways in time all have to die.
We see in part as in a mirror darkly
and wait in hope for love’s bright sun to rise.
Faith, hope and love, these three remain our story
but faith and hope will vanish in the day;
as we await love’s triumph in the glory
grant us, oh Lord of love to love the better way.


This second hymn to the tune ‘Londonderry Air’ is in some ways based on the famous ‘Footprints’ text but it stand independently from it, too. I was walking with my family on the highest sand dune in Europe, the Pylar Dune near Bordeaux and began improvising a song about walking by the shore through difficulties. It was a kind of joke but I quickly realised that people would love to be able to sing the ‘Footprints’ text, so I completed the work. I have been delighted to see that this hymn resonates with people in difficulties – some have used it on memorial websites.

Upon the shore, I walked with Him at even
and I looked back upon the path we’d trod,
and in the sand I traced our way at even,
and I was glad I’d walked through life with God:
for side by side we’d journeyed through together
all through the world’s wide wilderness of care,
and side by side we’d journeyed through to even:
safe at his side the Lord my God had brought me here.

But in my joy I caught a strain of sadness
to give me pause when thinking of my way,
for on the shore I saw he’d left me lonely
when I had most the need of him to stay:
when I was tried he’d left me worn and wandering,
he’d left me lone when I was fighting fears,
he’d let me tread the steepest slopes in solitude
before he came back to my side to dry my tears.

But then the Lord drew near to me in comfort
and in his tenderness he made it plain
that in the times when dread and darkness threatened
he was my shield and shelter from the pain:
for on his shoulders he was gently bearing,
and on his shoulders I from harm was free:
the single trace of footprints of the Master,
the single trace of footprints shows he carried me.

So on the shore I walk with Him at even;
I face the latter days of life secure,
for if my pilgrimage reserves me sorrow
the footprints show that He is strong and sure:
if I am near the gates of heaven weary,
no longer strong enough to stride alone
the footprints show that he is there to carry me:
the footprints show the Lord my God will bear me home.

6 thoughts on “The Universe of Grace – Four new hymn texts

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