No, Not One! (What I Like
By Michael Dalton
There’s not a friend like
the lowly Jesus, No, not one! No, not one! Initially, this hymn had no
appeal to me. The phrase “the lowly Jesus” bothered me, and the words and
melody were sung like a Sunday school rhyme. I later realized that this
was one of a number of hymns the author wrote for children. Somehow I had
forgotten that Jesus described himself as being “lowly in heart” (Matthew
11:29 KJV). I just thought of this as one of those hymns that conveyed
a somewhat misleading perspective.
Yet, as we sang that hymn
on Sunday mornings, its simple rhyme and truths worked their way into my
heart and stayed with me. Now years later I still remember some of the
phrases, and as I do, I can recall with fondness the pastor of that church
leading us in this song. Here was a godly man using voice and hands to
conduct us through what at first seemed so dated, but it was filled with
simple childlike lessons vital to anyone.
We never get to the place
in our maturity where we can afford to cast aside the plain things. As
someone has rightly observed, the plain things are the main things. At
the end of his life, Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers who
ever lived, summarized what he believed in the words of another simple
Sunday School song: Jesus loves me! This I know … The Bible tells me so.
To this day I find comfort
in the plain but sublime truths of “No, Not One!” No night so dark but
His love can cheer us, No, not one! No, not one! Jesus knows all about
our struggles, He will guide till the day is done; There’s not a friend
like the lowly Jesus, No, not one! No, not one!
For me, it’s not about hymns
versus choruses or past versus future. I enjoy the best of what the past
has to offer, and also appreciate contemporary expressions of praise and
worship. In this article, I am just focusing on what I like about hymns,
and hopefully, we might see what they have to offer to a culture that places
greater value on what is new and contemporary, and gives considerable less
thought to the past. This is true even in the Church.
One thing I appreciate about
hymns is their focus. They often condense some of the grandest and deepest
truths of Scripture into just a few lines of verse. They turn our
attention from ourselves to God’s greatness. Many of them tell the story
of what God did for us in sending His son to die for our sins. They bring
us back to the cross.
Sometimes they are like
the Psalms in that they state who God is to His people.
A mighty fortress
is our God,
As in the preceding verse, many
hymns are rich in descriptive poetry. In a world with such an abundance
of beauty, both in nature and in what we create, I think it’s safe to say
that God delights in beauty. I think we make a mistake when we only look
at things in terms of their usefulness, and dismiss the value of art and
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the
flood of mortal ills prevailing.
Do you remember when the
disciples complained when a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume?
They thought it was a waste. Yet, Jesus saw it as an act of worshipsomething
that she had done for Him that would be remembered for all of time. Isn’t
that what worship is all about, giving what we have, and even being extravagant
in our expression towards God?
Let me provide you with
a few more examples of the beauty and rich meaning that I find in hymns.
I am thankful to Joanne Hogg, the lead singer of Iona, for introducing
me to “My Song is Love Unknown”:
My song is love
It’s a remarkable poetic summary
of what God has done for people through Jesus Christ.
My Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless
That they might lovely
After going through a time
of severe mental suffering, Dr. George Matheson wrote “O Love that Wilt
Not Let Me Go.” These eloquent words are an encouragement to us in our
O Joy that seekest
me thru pain,
Rich Mullins, in his own unique
way, used the vivid imagery of Frederick Faber to remind us of how great
the love is that God has for us:
I cannot close my heart
I trace the rainbow thru
And feel the promise
is not vain
That morn shall tearless
There’s a wideness
in God’s mercy,
And I do not want to leave out
these words from “Spacious Firmament,” which remind me of Psalm 19:
Like the wideness of
There’s a kindness in
Which is more than liberty.
sun, from day to day,
I did not like “No, Not One!”
the first few times I sang it, but years later, one early morning, I found
myself walking down the street singing, There’s not a friend like the lowly
Jesus. No, not one! No, not one! As I sang those words, I didn’t feel so
alone. It almost felt like I was being accompanied by an unseen presence.
Does his Creator’s power
And publishes to every
The work of an almighty
In this difficult time,
it’s not hard to recognize that: There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus.
No, not one! I also need to rememberespecially when I’m downthat
there’s: No night so dark but His love can cheer us, No, not one! No, not