Posted by: rcottrill | March 25, 2011

O Happy Day

Words: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Happy Day, by Edward Francis Rimbault (b. June 13, 1816; d. Sept. 26, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Some resources suggest that the tune Happy Day came from Dr. Rimbault. He did write the music for the refrain. But the origin of the rest is obscure. It was adapted for use with John Cennick’s 1743 hymn Jesus, My All to Heaven Is Gone, and later for use with Doddridge’s hymn.

We tend to think of happiness as arising from happenings–that is, from our circumstances, what has happened to us. While a sense of joy and blessedness may arise from such things, it may be rooted deeper in our awareness that God is at work, even when our present situation is difficult. The word “happy” has several shades of meaning in English. It can mean cheerful, delighted or enthusiastic. It can also mean satisfied and content (as in “I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished”), or blessed and highly favoured.

Blessed and highly favoured is closest to how the Bible uses the word. When Psalm 1 begins, “Blessed is the man…” it means he is enriched, contented, and fulfilled. And that is likely what Doddridge meant: “O what a blessed day that fixed [fastened or secured] my choice on Thee!” (CH-1). “Happy [enriched, contented and fulfilled] are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 144:15).

And the response to God’s wonderful salvation will be twofold, as CH-1 indicates, rejoicing within that is aimed Godward, and that causes us to tell abroad to others what the Lord has done for us.

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10).

Conversion certainly involves a personal choice or a vow to trust Christ as Saviour (CH-1 and 2). But since the sin nature is spiritually dead, “there is none who seeks after God” (Rom. 3:11). We were only able to seek God after He sought us, and enabled us to turn to Him, by His Spirit. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). In the words of Doddridge, “He drew me, and I followed on” (CH-3). The sovereign action of God in the work of salvation is described by the Lord Jesus in this way:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out….No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (Jn. 6:37, 44, 65).

Conversion can also be described as a “rest” (CH-4), in which faith rests itself in the finished work of Christ. “We who have believed do enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3). When the Lord God finished the work of creation, He rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-2). That rest from work is used by the writer of Hebrews as a picture of the rest of saving faith. We trust only in the Saviour, not our own works, to gain God’s acceptance. “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb. 4:10; cf. Rom. 4:4-5).

The fifth stanza of Philip Doddridge’s hymn is often omitted from our hymnals. In it, the author makes a lifelong commitment to continue following the Lord.

High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till in life’s latest hour I bow
And bless in death a bond so dear.

Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away.

1) What are some of the blessings of God’s wonderful salvation?

2) Why would any born again Christian fail to respond with joyful enthusiasm to what God has done for him?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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