Posted by: rcottrill | March 13, 2010

Today in 1823 – Henry Twells Born

The classroom was almost deserted. It was examination time, and all but one young man had finished and gone home. Far down the room, in the gathering shadows, sat the lone student, his brow knotted over the paper before him. Behind a high desk at the front was the stern school master, Henry Twells. He raised his eyes and watched the young man at his labours. Then, his gaze drifted to the window. Somewhere beyond the trees, the late afternoon sun was dropping below the horizon, and the blue-gray twilight was settling in. The scene caused the weary man’s thoughts to turn in a new direction.

He remembered a time when the Lord Jesus, after a long Sabbath day of ministry, retired to the home of Simon Peter (Lk. 4:38-40). But, before long, a commotion arose at the door. Stepping outside, Jesus was met by a gathering crowd of people. Strict Jewish law had prevented them from arriving earlier. No burdens were to be borne on the Sabbath, and they had burdens indeed. As soon as the setting sun touched the rim of the horizon, the day of rest was officially over. And all across the city of Capernaum those who had any who were sick brought them to the feet of Christ.

The loving heart of Christ must have ached with compassion as He saw that confluence of human suffering and the sea of eager faces. Illness had touched home after home, and current remedies had proven inadequate. But now, anxiety was tempered with new hope, as they laid their precious burdens before the Saviour. Patiently, He walked among them, speaking a kindly word here and there, and gently touching those who were sick. The Bible says, “He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Lk. 4:40).

In 1868, Englishman Henry Twells saw it all, as though it were happening before his eyes. Then, emerging from his reverie, he drew a piece of paper toward him and began to write. For a few minutes, nothing was heard in the room but the scratching of two busy pens. But before the student had completed his work, his instructor had created a lovely new hymn-poem about the healing ministry of Christ, At Even, Ere the Sun Was Set.

For the sake of space, I rarely include all the stanzas of the hymns discussed in this blog. I have made an exception here. The hymn as a whole provides a moving compendium of the things that trouble us, and points us to the answer.

At even, ere the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;
O, with what divers pains they met!
O, with what joy they went away!

Once more ’tis eventide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if Thy form we cannot see?
We know and feel that Thou art near.

O Saviour Christ, our woes dispel;
For some are sick, and some are sad;
And some have never loved Thee well,
And some have lost the love they had.

And some are pressed with worldly care
And some are tried with sinful doubt;
And some such grievous passions tear,
That only Thou canst cast them out.

And some have found the world is vain,
Yet from the world they break not free;
And some have friends who give them pain,
Yet have not sought a friend in Thee.

And none, O Lord, has perfect rest,
For none is wholly free from sin;
And they who fain would serve Thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within.

O Saviour Christ, Thou too art man;
Thou has been troubled, tempted, tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan
The very wounds that shame would hide.

Thy touch has still its ancient power.
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.

(2) Today in 1880 – O How Fair That Morning written
John Ellerton graduated from Trinity College, and served as a clergyman in the Church of England. He was a recognized authority on hymns, and wrote or translated 80 of them. To read more about him and his beautiful hymn The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended, see the second item under Today in 1770.  O How Fair That Morning is a perceptive look at creation, the effects of the fall, and the salvation God provided.

Oh how fair that morning broke,
When in Eden man awoke!
Beast and bird and insect bright
Reveled in the gladsome light;
God looked down from heav’n above,
All was life and joy and love.

Ah! the doleful change when sin
Darkly, subtly entered in!
War and pestilence and dearth
Mar and sadden God’s fair earth;
Human sorrow fills the air;
Death is reigning everywhere.

Yet rejoice; for God on high
Hath not left His world to die!
God’s dear Son, with dying breath,
Broke the power of sin and death;
Christ the tempter overthrew,
Christ is making all things new.


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