Hymns of the Season: More Love to Thee, O Christ

By Jerry Rushford

George and Elizabeth Prentiss were enjoying the sunshine of life in New York City in the autumn of 1851. Their children, Annie and Eddy, were healthy and happy and a third child was on the way. But Eddy contracted a disease in November, and on January 16 he died. Bessie was born three months later, but the following month she died suddenly on May 19 after an illness of a few hours.

One evening when they returned from the cemetery, Elizabeth talked about her “unutterable longings to flee from a world that has had for me so many sharp experiences.” When she questioned the reality of the love of God, George replied softly, “But it is in times like these that God loves us all the more, just as we loved our own children more when they were sick or troubled or in distress.” He encouraged his wife to return God’s love.

One night in the stillness of her living room, Elizabeth Prentiss gave expression to her faith by writing this prayer. Many years after it was written, Elizabeth showed the prayer to George in 1869. It was published in a hymnal for the first time in 1870, and when Elizabeth died at the age of 59, it was sung at her funeral on August 14, 1878.

Following the death of his wife, George Prentiss published a memoir of her life in which he commented on her response to the tragedies of 1852. He wrote: “Although the death of these two children tore with anguish the mother’s heart, she made no show of grief, and to the eye of the world her life soon appeared to move on as beforetime. Never again, however, was it exactly the same life. She had entered into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, and the new experience wrought a great change in her whole being.”

More love to Thee, O Christ, More love to Thee!
Here Thou the prayer I make on bended knee
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, More love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee Alone I seek: Give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, More love to Thee!

This blog post is part of a series on the history of hymns, by Dr. Jerry Rushford, Director of the Churches of Christ Heritage Center at the Pepperdine Libraries. For more information on the Pepperdine Special Collections and University Archives, including the Churches of Christ Heritage Center, please see our website.

Hymns of the Season: More Love to Thee, O Christ
Tagged on: