Posted by: rcottrill | February 15, 2012

We Would See Jesus

Words: Anna Bartlett Warner (b. Aug. 31, 1827; d. Jan. 22, 1915)
Music: Consolation (or Mendelssohn), by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Anna Warner is best known for the gospel song Jesus Loves Me, but this one is equally worthy of our attention and use. The original has six stanzas. Hymn books I’ve checked generally use CH-1, 2, 5, and 6 (and sometimes CH-3). The Wordwise Hymns link provides a more extensive biography of the author.

Mendelssohn is a composer of some note, a Jewish man who became a born again Christian. If you aren’t familiar with his oratorio Elijah, check it out. I relish it next to Handel’s peerless Messiah. For a biographical note on Mendelssohn, see here.

This great hymn deals with a subject that is uncomfortable to some–a contemplation of coming death. And there’s a growing awareness on the part of the hymn writer that the end is fast approaching, and may be very near. This life, after all, is only a “little landscape” (CH-1).

CH-1) We would see Jesus; for the shadows lengthen
Across this little landscape of our life;
We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
For the last weariness, the final strife.

The Scriptures emphasize in various ways the brevity and transitory nature of this present mortal life–often in contrast to things of God that are eternal.

“Both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (II Pet. 3:10).“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14). “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever” (I Pet. 1:24-25). “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (I Jn. 2:17).

Because of the shortness of our time here on earth, and the fragile and temporary nature of material things, and of goals that are merely temporal, the Word of God exhorts us to focus on the spiritual and eternal.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [things related to your earthly needs] shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33; cf. vs. 19-21). “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-2). “[God] has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:3-4).

Facing eternity has a way of reorganizing our priorities. Yet we do tend to love and cling to the things of this mortal life. They have grown familiar, and in a way seem more real. The Holy Spirit, indwelling each believer, can give a greater sense of the reality and nearness of things spiritual and eternal, but we may still struggle with this.

CH-4) We would see Jesus; yet the spirit lingers
Round the dear objects it has loved so long,
And earth from earth can scarce unclasp its fingers;
Our love to Thee makes not this love less strong.

CH-5) We would see Jesus: sense is all too binding,
And heaven appears too dim, too far away;
We would see Thee, Thyself our hearts reminding
What Thou hast suffered, our great debt to pay.

Anna Warner concludes with this note of triumph and reassurance:

CH-6) We would see Jesus: this is all we’re needing;
Strength, joy, and willingness come with the sight;
We would see Jesus, dying, risen, pleading;
Then welcome day, and farewell mortal night.

1) What are some things in your own life that need to assume a lower priority, given the nearness of eternity?

2) What would a local church be like, if the people understood better the lessons of Anna Warner’s hymn?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Thank you for your comment on my site-some time ago -just re-linked my post (A Mighty Fortress) to a new post and ‘found you’–
    I will be adding you to my roll…


    • And thanks, in return, for helping me spread the word!


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