St. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13 "For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
One might assume from this hymn text that Richard Baxter lived a quiet life of a British gentleman. Not so. This seventeenth century English clergyman was too Puritanical for the Anglican bishops and too Episcopalian for the Presbyterians. Baxter was always getting into trouble. And the Puritans didn't like him because he was a champion of church music.
When Richard Baxter was 70 years old, he was brought before a judge and accused of writing a paraphrase of the New Testament. The judge called him "an old rogue, a hypocritical villian, a fanatical dog, and a sniveling Presbyterian." The judge proceeded to have Baxter whipped and jailed in the Tower of London.
This hymn was written as a commentary on Philippians 1:21 "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." It was dedicated to Baxter's wife, who had died a few years earlier after a lengthy illness. Baxter's life was one of constant struggles, but he was content to leave such matters in God's hands.
1. Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.
2. If life be long, I will be glad
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To soar to endless day?
3. Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God's kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.
4. Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet,
What will Thy glory be!
5. Then shall I end my sad complaints
And weary, sinful days
And join with the triumphant saints
Who sing my Savior's praise.
6. My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.