Posted by: rcottrill | June 25, 2010

Today in 1799 – Philip Pusey Born

Philip Pusey became a member of Parliament in Britain. Prime Minister Disraeli said of him that he was “both by his lineage, his estate, his rare accomplishments and fine abilities, one of the most distinguished country gentlemen who ever sat in the House of Commons.” A patron of the arts, he was one of the founders of the London Library. And Philip Pusey took a great interest in hymnology.

In 1834 he wrote Lord of Our Life, and God of Our Salvation, a paraphrase of an earlier German hymn. The original was written in 1644, near the end of the Thirty Years War, which accounts for  several military references in the song. Pusey saw his hymn as applying to the condition of the church in his day, “assailed from without, enfeebled and distracted within, but on the eve of a great awakening.”

The comment is reminiscent of Paul’s, in his farewell to the elders of the church at Ephesus. “After my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30). Attacks from the outside, and from within. And today we must be on guard against the same things. In part, the hymn says:

Lord of our life, and God of our salvation,
Star of our night, and hope of every nation,
Hear and receive Thy church’s supplication,
Lord God Almighty.

Lord, Thou canst help when earthly armour faileth;
Lord, Thou canst save when sin itself assaileth;
Lord, o’er Thy rock nor death nor hell prevaileth;
Grant us Thy peace, Lord.

 (2) Heir of the Kingdom (Data Missing)
It’s the Apostle James who speaks of believers as “heirs of the kingdom” (Jas. 2:5; cf. Lk. 12:32). Peter refers to us as “a royal priesthood” (I Pet. 2:), and Revelation describes the redeemed as “kings and priests” (or “a kingdom of priests”), promising that “we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10; cf. 3:1). We are joint heirs with Christ (Gal. 4:7), part of the royal family, and will have a part in His coming reign.

There is hymn whose authorship is unknown that challenges believers to live with eternity’s values in view, as those who are heirs of the kingdom. Lowell Mason provided the tune for Heir of the Kingdom, and you can hear it on the Cyber Hymnal.

Heir of the kingdom, O why dost thou slumber?
Why art thou sleeping so near thy blest home?
Wake thee, arouse thee, and gird on thine armour,
Speed, for the moments are hurrying on.

Heir of the kingdom, say, why dost thou linger?
How canst thou tarry in sight of the prize?
Up, and adorn thee, the Saviour is coming;
Haste to receive Him descending the skies.

Earth’s mighty nations, in strife and commotion,
Tremble with terror, and sink in dismay;
Listen, ’tis naught but the chariot’s loud rumbling;
Heir of the kingdom, no longer delay.

Stay not, O stay not, for earth’s vain allurements!
See how its glory is passing away;
Break the strong fetters the foe hath bound o’er thee;
Heir of the kingdom, turn, turn thee away.

Keep the eye single, the head upward lifted;
Watch for the glory of earth’s coming King;
Lo! o’er the mountain tops light is now breaking;
Heirs of the kingdom, rejoice ye and sing.

Why do we sing hymns in church? There are some reasons, perhaps unspoken and unrecognized, that are less than biblical. The Scriptures give us important insight on this. I’ve discussed the issue in the article Worship in Song.


Responses

  1. Perhaps one of the best ways to retain salient and important information is to arrange it in the form of a poem. The mind is able to recall more easily that which is organized in this manner. When poetry is set to music it has twice the power of recall on the mind. During the formative years of a child when the mind is like a sponge, open and flexible, the effect of constant congregational singing lends to excellent recall in later years. When biblical truths are arranged poetically and set to music, such truths will often never be forgotten. It is not surprising therefore to observe the enemies of biblical truths are also the enemies of the hymns.

    • You make an excellent point. Memorization is indeed aided by putting information in a poetic format. God knew that, of course. Psalms, the hymn book of the Bible, is Hebrew poetry. Not quite the same as ours, as it uses a parallelism of thought, rather than of rhythm and rhyme, but poetry nonetheless.

      Your comment about children absorbing truth through regular congregational hymn singing is another great point. I can see it in my own case. Hymns heard nearly seventy years ago are still carried in my balding head.

      The idea that enemies of Bible truth are also enemies of our traditional hymns–I think it’s a bit more complicated than that, but point taken. There’s a growing sloppiness about Bible truth, a superficial treatment, a skimming of some vague ideas off the top that will basically find agreement with anybody and everybody. Often that approach is reflected in contemporary religious music.

      An example: Recently, I had reason to review carefully the rendering of a song called Behold!, by the rock group Whitecross. (You can see and hear it here.) It is supposedly based on John the Baptist’s presentation of Christ as the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29). But it is so shallow it could be acceptable to just about anybody, Christian or not.

      Three things that struck me. 1) A photograph of the group near the beginning. The sullen foursome of long-haired young men in leather jackets seems calculated to make them seem just like dozens of secular rock groups. But aren’t we supposed to be different? Where is the joy of the Lord in that photograph? 2) The song is delivered with a kind of shriek or scream, backed by an incessant, intrusive beat. What that music style expresses to me is anger and rage, not a love for God’s holy Lamb.

      3) More importantly than anything else, the song never gets to the point of John 1:29. All through the Old Testament, the sacrificial system, designed by God to point forward to the cross, involved the innocent dying in place of the guilty. That is exactly what the Lord Jesus did for us. The sinless Son of God died to pay the penalty for our sins. (It’s right in the Bible text.) However there is no reference to sin or atonement in the song. That is tragic. But it is the kind of thing that’s replacing, “Man of Sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came…” and “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died…” and many more wonderful hymns loaded with Bible truth.

      Thank you so much for your comments. God bless.


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