255. God, Be Merciful to Me

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1 God, be merciful to me;
on your grace I rest my plea.
My transgressions I confess;
grief and guilt my soul oppress.
Wash me, make me pure within;
cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

2 I have sinned against your grace
and provoked you to your face.
I confess your judgment just;
speechless, I your mercy trust.
Let my contrite heart rejoice
and in gladness hear your voice.

3 Gracious God, my heart renew,
make my spirit right and true.
Do not cast me from your sight
nor remove your Spirit's light.
Your salvation's joy restore,
make me steadfast evermore.

4 Contrite spirit, pleading cries,
you, O God, will not despise.
Sinful ways I will reprove,
and my tongue shall sing your love.
Let my righteous sacrifice
then delight your holy eyes.

Text Information
First Line: God, be merciful to me
Title: God, Be Merciful to Me
Meter: 77 77 77
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ;
Topic: Confession and Forgiveness; Confession of Sin; Forgiveness (5 more...)
Source: Psalter, 1912, alt.
Tune Information
Name: REDHEAD 76
Composer: Richard Redhead (1853)
Meter: 77 77 77
Key: E♭ Major

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st.1 = Ps. 51:1-3
st.2 = Ps. 51:4,8
st.3 = Ps. 51:10-12
st.4 = Ps. 51:13-14,17,19

Based on Psalm 51, the best-known of the penitential psalms, “God, Be Merciful” is a collation from the complete versification of the psalm in the 1912 Psalter. Making various alterations, especially in stanza 3, Bert Polman (PHH 37) prepared the collation to provide a shortened version of this well-known psalm and tune for the Psalter Hymnal. Other settings of Psalm 51 are at 51 and 167.

Liturgical Use:
Service of confession and forgiveness; a sung prayer for renewal (st. 3); offering of gifts (st. 4). See also PHH 51.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

REDHEAD 76 is named for its composer, who published it as number 76 in his influential Church Hymn Tunes, Ancient and Modern (1853) as a setting for the hymn text "Rock of Ages." It has been associated with Psalm 51 since the 1912 Psalter, where the tune was named AJALON. The tune is also known as PETRA from its association with "Rock of Ages," and GETHSEMANE, which derives from the text "Go to Dark Gethsemane" (381).

Of the three long lines constituting REDHEAD 76, the last is almost identical to the first, and the middle line has an internal repeat. Well-suited to singing in parts, this music is also appropriate for unaccompanied singing.

Richard Redhead (b. Harrow, Middlesex, England, 1820; d. Hellingley, Sussex, England, 1901) was a chorister at Magdalen College, Oxford. At age nineteen he was invited to become organist at Margaret Chapel (later All Saints Church), London. Greatly influencing the musical tradition of the church, he remained in that position for twenty-five years as organist and an excellent trainer of the boys' choirs. Redhead and the church's rector, Frederick Oakeley (PHH 340), were strongly committed to the Oxford Movement, which favored the introduction of Roman elements into Anglican worship. Together they produced the first Anglican plainsong psalter, Laudes Diurnae (1843). Redhead spent the latter part of his career as organist at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Paddington (1864-1894).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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