Posted by: rcottrill | July 30, 2012

When Morning Gilds the Skies

Words: Edward Caswall (b. July 15, 1814; d. Jan. 2, 1878)
Music: Laudes Domini, by Joseph Barnby (b. Aug. 12, 1838; d. Jan. 28, 1896)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The original is an anonymous German hymn from the eighteenth century. Edward Caswell is usually given as the “translator,” though he freely paraphrased so much that the English version could also be considered a new hymn. Further, Caswell added some stanzas of his own, bringing the total to twenty-eight! Robert Bridges also produced a version of the hymn, and in some books his work is mixed with that of Caswell.

Sometimes the hymn is called May Jesus Christ Be Praised, a phrase repeated no less than thirty times (with a slight variation a couple of times) in the fifteen stanzas given by the Cyber Hymnal. The Latin name for Joseph Barnby’s tune, Laudes Domini, fits the theme, as it means “Praises of the Lord.”

Needless to say, with so many stanzas to choose from, different hymnal editors have chosen various ones to include. Commonly I’ve seen, CH-1, 5, 14 and 15 used, with the third line of CH-10, “The powers of darkness fear, when this sweet chant they here,” replacing the original line, “Let earth, and sea and sky from depth to height reply,” in CH-14.

Not all of Caswell’s work in the song is of high quality, or would be meaningful to many congregations today. CH-4 gives us these quaint lines (with Caswell’s original being “in the choir”):

My tongue shall never tire of chanting with the choir,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
This song of sacred joy, it never seems to cloy,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

These things being said, the stanzas most often used provide a joyful morning hymn of praise. In truth, as hymn book editor C. S. Robinson commented in one book:

“The compiler of this and other hymn books, little and large, would like to say, once for all, that the aim of his entire work could not better be indicated than it is in the single line, ‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’”

That is a major duty of the saints, for time and eternity, to praise the Lord. When Jacob’s wife Leah gave birth the Judah, she exclaimed, “Now I will praise the Lord” (Gen. 29:35). When the Lord delivered Israel from bondage, and brought the nation through the Red Sea, by His great power, we read that the nation sang a song to His glory: “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (Exod. 15:2).

When the Lord delivered David, he says, “He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD” (Ps. 40:3). And as king of Israel David did a great deal to organize the praise of God in the temple. “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the LORD God of Israel” (I Chron. 16:4).

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we read of “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (Lk. 2:13). And the Scriptures say that “we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13).

This “canticle” (or song) of praise continues into eternity: “Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’” (Rev. 19:5).

CH-1) When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

CH-15) Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this th’ eternal song through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

1) What are some of the occasions in the average day when the praise of God is especially appropriate?

2) Psalm 22:3 speaks of God being “enthroned in the praises of Israel” (NKJV, ESV). Though this phrase is rendered a number of different ways by the translators, what might it mean as translated here?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

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