Blind English poet John Milton is well known in literature for his epic poem about the fall of man, Paradise Lost. But he has also given us a few hymns. His most familiar, written when he was 15 years old, is Let Us With a Gladsome Mind, a paraphrase of Ps. 136.
Let us, with a gladsome mind,
Praise the Lord, for He is kind.
For His mercies aye endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.
The poet also wrote a stirring hymn about the second coming of Christ, The Lord Will Come. The song is based mainly on verses taken from Ps. 82, 85, and 86. Echoing the concern of the Reformation, the Puritans tried to translate the Scriptures from the original languages literally, with as little paraphrasing as possible. For this reason, John Milton placed lines of his second coming hymn in italics, when they were added thoughts not contained in the Bible passage. For example, his original first stanza, now slightly amended, is based on Ps. 85:13. It reads:
Before Him righteousness shall go
His royal harbinger,
Then will He come, and not be slow
His footsteps cannot err.
The hymn speaks of Christ’s coming righteous rule over the earth in the Millennial Kingdom. Twice in Rev. 22, the Lord Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly [meaning either suddenly, or soon]!” (vs. 7, 12). The writer, the Apostle John, catches the spirit of this and says, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (vs. 20).
The Lord will come and not be slow;
His footsteps cannot err;
Before Him righteousness shall go,
His royal harbinger.
Mercy and truth, that long were missed,
Now joyfully are met;
Sweet peace and righteousness have kissed,
And hand in hand are set.
Rise, God, judge Thou the earth in might,
This wicked earth redress;
For Thou art He who shalt by right
The nations all possess.
(2) Today in 1893 – George Elvey Died
British church musician George Job Elvey provided tunes for a number of our hymns. Diademata is used with Crown Him with Many Crowns, and we sing Come, Ye Thankful People, Come to St. George’s Windsor. (For a bit more about Mr. Elvey and his music, see Today in 1816.) Elvey also supplied the tune for a little known Christmas carol by Archer Thompson Gurney, Come Ye Lofty. (Gurney was an Anglican clergyman and author.) The carol beautifully depicts the condescension of the Son of God in taking on our humanity.
Come, ye lofty, come, ye lowly,
Let your songs of gladness ring;
In a stable lies the Holy,
In a manger rests the King:
See in Mary’s arms reposing
Christ by highest heav’n adored:
Come, your circle round Him closing,
Pious hearts that love the Lord.
Come ye poor, no pomp of station
Robes the Child your hearts adore;
He, the Lord of all salvation,
Shares your want, is weak and poor:
Oxen, round about behold them;
Rafters naked, cold, and bare,
See the shepherds, God has told them
That the Prince of Life lies there.
Hark the heav’n of heav’ns is ringing:
Christ the Lord to man is born!
Are not all our hearts, too, singing,
Welcome, welcome, Christmas morn?
Still the Child, all power possessing,
Smiles as through the ages past;
And the song of Christmas blessing
Sweetly sinks to rest at last.