I Cannot tell (by William Young Fullerton)

I Cannot tell (by William Young Fullerton)


I have always had a love of music and have a deep appreciation for all types of music & songs.  But it’s the hymns and songs relating to our Christian faith and the sentiments expressed that speak of our Lord Jesus, Heaven and the Father, that touches me most.

I remember singing this old hymn as a child. Standing between the high pews, listening to the doleful singing, trying to sing the words with understanding and willing the clock on so church could be over.  I was familiar with it mainly because of its beautiful tune – ‘The Londonderry Air’ also known as Danny Boy. It was a regular favourite at the annual Carrickfergus Musical festival at which I also took part many years ago.

However, it wasn’t until several years later in 1984 at the age of 16, when I attended the ‘Wales & Dales Bible Week’ in Builth Wells that I heard it with new ears and in a whole different way.   I can still remember it very well.  It was being sung by thousands of people all lifting their hearts to God in unison and with one voice, proclaiming that Jesus ‘heals the broken-hearted’, He ‘calms our lurking fears’ and how one day He will return in splendour.   It was so thrilling and stirring to see these fellow Christians fully engaged with the truths of what they were singing.  It thrilled me so!   The hymn came to life for me and the words sprung off the page into my heart.  Such wonderful words that told of the Saviour and His message of salvation for all men.


Many of you may already know who it’s writer was.  I was very interested to learn that William Young Fullerton had been a Baptist Preacher born in Belfast in 1857. A personal friend of the ‘Prince of Preachers’ – Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Fullerton was a regular speaker at the Keswick conventions and during his lifetime and he published biographies of well know men of God such as F.B. Meyer, John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon.  He wrote beautiful pieces of prose, poetry and hymns about the Christian journey.

He died at the age of 75 in 1932.  Not that long ago really.


I love the swell of the music that leads us into the second half of each verse.
…But this I know, that HE was born of Mary
…But this I know, He Heals the broken hearted
…But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory
…But this I know; the skies will thrill with rapture.
And myriad, myriad human voices sing
And earth to heaven and heaven to earth will answer:
At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world is King.

Hallelujah!  How wonderful!


I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
should set His love upon the sons of men,
or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
to bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
when Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
and that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
as with His peace he graced this place of tears,
or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
the crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted
and stays our sin and calms our lurking fear
and lifts the burden from the heavy laden;
for yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
how He will claim his earthly heritage,
how satisfy the needs and aspirations
of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
and He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
and some glad day His sun will shine in splendour
when He the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
when at His bidding every storm is stilled,
or who can say how great the jubilation
when all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
and myriad, myriad human voices sing,
and earth to heaven and heaven to earth, will answer,
‘At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!’

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