I Have Promised

John Ernest Bode, 1816 - 74

O Jesus, I have promised To serve thee to the end; Be thou forever near me, My Master and my Friend.

An Anglican clergyman, John Bode wrote this testimony of intent for the confirmation service of his daughter and two sons—the original poem (titled "A Hymn for the Newly Confirmed") reading "O Jesus, we have promised."

The bold beginning of this hymn reminds me of a camp-meeting testimony one never hears anymore: "I'm going to go all the way with Jesus." I'm going to be faithful to the end, till I die; God and you all can count on me, come hail or high water.

It also draws me to the gospel story of Peter's brash claim that he would never deny his Lord: "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will" (Matthew 26:33).

But as I take a closer look at Bode's pledge of fidelity, it does seem less rash than Peter's. Only four of Bode's original forty-eight lines describe "my promise" as opposed to God's provision. Its bravado is tamed by its humble request for help. God, I promise to serve youto the end. And yoube at my side; be my guide and guardian; let me feel you; let me hear you.

Two "let me see you" verses are consistently deleted from our hymnals. One of these refers to Jesus' response to Peters broken promise.

O let me see . . .

The look that beamed on Peter

When he thy name denied;

The look that draws thy loved ones

Close to thy pierced side.

Lord, if I stumble, if I'm not faithful on some count, gently tug me back to and through repentance.

Peter didn't keep his rash promise. But his fall didn't keep him from making a more reasonable claim a week later, after Christ's resurrection. As the disciples finished a seaside breakfast, Jesus fired a question direcdy at a humbled Peter: "Do you truly love me?"

"Yes, Lord."

Then "take care of my sheep" (John 21:16). 

Then get up. We're going to keep walkingto the end. Follow me; serve me. In this conversation Jesus even gave Peter a hint of what his "end" was to be-—-a martyr's murder.

And empowered by the Spirit, Peter remained faithful. He saw his service through. For his children—and for us-—-Bode explains how:

My hope to follow duly Is in thy strength alone.

As I first looked at "O Jesus, I Have Promised," I saw it as a presumptuous testimony of intent. Oh, be careful little tongue what you promise. But I have softened my view. Thanks to Jesus' redemptive response to a bumbling Peter. Thanks to Bode's graceful lines. I can see why it has been ranked high in polls of "favorite hymns." I can see why it was recendy sung at a funeral, as a testimony to the life of a generous, committed woman. She had made and by grace kept the promise.

And Jesus I have promised To serve thee to the end; O give me grace to follow, My Master and my Friend.

And in the end, she had staked a claim:

O Jesus, thou hast promised To all who follow thee That where thou art in glory There shall thy servant be.

O guide me, call me, draw me, Uphold me to the end; And then in heaven receive me, My Savior and my Friend.

Bode wrote a testimony to live by and die by. A prayer for the young and old. For tomorrow and today. For you and me.

Lord, make this testimony of intent the theme of my 


From the book "Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns" by Evelyn Bence.

Jesus said, "He that shall endure to the end shall be saved." We must start on the road to salvation with Christ as our Passover sacrifice. And we must keep on the straight and narrow road to eternal life, with Jesus and the Father IN us ..... John 14:23; Gal.2:20. And yes in the last part we can change to "And when you come receive me, My Savior and my Friend."  If you didn't know it, to be correct with Scripture, we do not go to heaven, anytime, but heaven is coming to us. All that theological truth is on my website in many studies.

Keith Hunt