Firmly ensconced in English Hymnody, no one is quite sure where this gem came from. First seen as a poem in a Scottish Bible in 1594, and published intermittently as a stand alone poem, a hymn, or a text-feature in various Bibles, this piece extols the virtue of our ‘incomparable treasure’ of the Holy Bible. In the 1846 book titled Wanderings of a Pilgrim in the Shadow of Mont Blanc by George Barrell Cheever, the author tells us that the poem appeared in nearly all the copies of the Geneva editions of the translations of the Bible, which was made during the reign of Queen Mary by those illustrious exiles John Knox, Miles Coverdale, Anthony Gilby, Christopher Gilman, and others.
Though its origins may be a mystery, its point is made beautifully clear in moving verse.
Here is the spring where waters flow,
To quench our heat of sin;
Here is the tree where truth doth grow
To lead our lives therein;
Here is the judge that stints the strife
When men’s devises fail:
Here is the bread that feeds the life
Which death cannot assail.
The tidings of salvation dear
Comes to our ears from hence;
The fortress of our faith is here;
The shield of our defence.
Then be not like the hog that hath
A pearl at his desire,
And takes more pleasure in the trough
And wallowing in the mire.
Read not this book in any case
But with a single eye:
Read not, but first desire GOD’s grace,
To understand thereby.
Pray still in faith with this respect
To fructify therein;
That knowledge may bring this effect,
To mortify thy sin.
Then happy thou in all thy life,
Whatso to thee befalls;
Yea, doubly happy shalt thou be
When GOD by death thee calls.