Posted by: rcottrill | October 21, 2011

The Sands of Time Are Sinking

Words: Anne Ross Cundell Cousin (b. Apr. 27, 1824; d. Dec. 6, 1906)
Music: Rutherford, by Chrétien d’Urhan (b. Feb. 16, 1790; d. Nov. 2, 1845)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This beautiful hymn has been cited as the longest hymn in the English language. With its nineteen stanzas, and nearly eight hundred words, it would certainly have few competitors! However, the nineteen stanzas are more technically a poem, written as a tribute to a godly Scottish pastor named Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661).

A strong evangelical preacher and warm-hearted minister, he suffered opposition from the state church. His dying words, which inspired the poem, were, “Glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land [i.e. heaven].” Many of the lines of this hymn are quotations from, or were inspired by, the correspondence of Samuel Rutherford.

Usually, hymn books use only four or five of Cousin’s stanzas: CH-1, 2, 13, 15, 17–which does not make a particularly lengthy hymn. A number of stanzas of the poem contain biographical and historical references, and would not be as suitable for a hymn. For example:

CH-10) Fair Anwoth by the Solway, to me thou still art dear,
E’en from the verge of heaven, I drop for thee a tear.
Oh! If one soul from Anwoth meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens, In Immanuel’s land.

For over thirty years, the sonorous voice of an announcer has intoned these words at the beginning of each episode of a television soap opera: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives.” It’s a picture of the inevitable passing of time. And there comes a day when, for each individual, the sands will run out. Apart from the return of Christ, each of us will sooner or later pass from this earthly scene.

Some face the end in sickness and pain, and perhaps in fear and dread of what may be on the other side of death. Others, Samuel Rutherford among them, have looked with delight and eager anticipation on being ushered into the presence of Christ. For the believer death is but a doorway to something far grander and more wonderful. It’s like the dawning of a new day.

CH-1) The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

In a stanza seldom used today, the speaker testifies that even suffering death, many times over, would be well worth reaching “Immanuel’s Land.”

CH-5) The King there in His beauty, without a veil is seen:
It were a well spent journey, though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army, doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory–glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

CH-15 makes use of imagery from the Song of Solomon (cf. S.S. 6:3). “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (S.S. 2:4). Like Solomon’s beloved bride, the “poor vile sinner,” cleansed by the blood of the Lamb” will revel in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. A relationship based on “His merit,” not our own (I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:3).

O I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved’s mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.”
I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand,
Not even where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

The book of Revelation speaks of the wedding celebration that will take place when the church, the spiritual bride of Christ, is finally united to Him.

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” (Rev. 19:7-9).

But in that day, surely we’ll not be enamoured with the beauty of our own garments, wonderful as they are. Our focus will be upon the surpassing glory of our heavenly Bridegroom.

CH-17) The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His piercèd hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.

1) What do the verses quoted suggest to you as to some of the spiritual qualities of Pastor Rutherford?

2) Would this kind of longing for our heavenly home be a hindrance to living for Christ and serving Him here and now? (Explain your answer.)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Wonderful treasury of the meaning of hymns.


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