Posted by: rcottrill | May 10, 2013

At the Name of Jesus

Words: Caroline Maria Noel (b. Apr. 10, 1817; d. Dec. 7, 1877
Music: Wye Valley, by James Mountain (b. July 16, 1844; d. June 27, 1933)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Seriously ill herself, and bedridden, Miss Noel included this hymn in a book entitled The Name of Jesus and Other Verses for the Sick and Lonely. The 1870 original had eight stanzas (all given in the Cyber Hymnal). The hymn book I have before me now includes CH-1, 3, 4, 7, and 8. The tune Wye Valley is commonly used with the hymn Like a River Glorious. The Cyber Hymnal also offers four alternates.

Based on Philippians 2:5-11, this fine hymn is especially associated with Ascension Day in the liturgical church calendar. Partly a paraphrase of the passage, and partly commentary on its truths, the hymn exalts the Lord Jesus Christ, calling upon us to do the same. The verses in the epistle say:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

CH-1) At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess Him King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

The Son of God was active as our Creator (CH-3; cf. Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16), but He was later to become precious to us (I Pet. 2:7) in His redemptive work. Through the fall, sin and corruption disqualified us all from participating of the glorious future the Lord envisioned for us (Rom. 3:23; 6:23a). The only solution was for a substitute to suffer God’s judgment in our place, and Christ is that Substitute (I Cor. 15:3; I Pet. 2:24).

The Son of God became Man for that very purpose (Mk. 10:45). Now, through faith in Him, we can have our sins forgiven, and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7). What amazing condescension–from heaven’s glory to a cruel cross, when the Creator became the Crucified! How wonderful that we can call Him our Saviour!

CH-4) Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom He came,
Faithfully He bore it, spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death He passed.

CH-5) Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

Later in the Philippian chapter, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast [or holding out] the word of life [remaining faithful to it, and faithfully proclaiming it] so that [he, Paul] may rejoice in the day of Christ that [he has] not run in vain or laboured in vain” (vs. 15-16). The Day of Christ refers to His coming again (cf. I Cor. 1:7-8), and Caroline Noel ends her hymn on a present and future note.

CH-7) In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its light and power.

CH-8) Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With His Father’s glory, with His angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon His brow,
And our hearts confess Him King of glory now.

This is a beautiful and challenging hymn that should be used more often than it is. And I cannot end my brief consideration of it without reference to the strange comments of hymnal editor John Wilson (quoted in Carlton Young’s Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, p. 221). He says:

“This is a hymn for which I have not the slightest use! Yards of glib theology in doggerel verse! I’m quite proud to have discouraged its inclusion in two hymnals. How many people understand “Bore it up triumphant” [see CH-3 and 4 above]–Christ carrying His own name up to heaven as a sort of exhibit?”

Well now! First of all, take a look at the word “doggerel” in the dictionary. The definition includes terms such as: rude, crude, comic, and worthless nonsense. Is that how you’d describe this hymn? I certainly wouldn’t!

As to Christ’s name, “Jesus” means Jehovah [is] salvation. And believers love that name because, by it, we acknowledge Him as our Saviour.

That He “bore it up triumphant” to the Father’s throne is simply a poetic way of saying that He returned to heaven in victory, having done what He was sent to accomplish. He had lived up to His name. Anticipating this, facing the cross, the Lord Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4). And “when He had by Himself purged our sins, [He] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

What is so difficult there to understand, Mr. Wilson? And if there are congregations for whom the ascension of Christ and its redeeming triumph are not known or understood, shame on those who presume to lead them for not explaining it!

Questions:
1) What does the name “Jesus” mean to you personally?

2) If you were able to talk to John Wilson, what would you say to him about his critique?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. Hello again! Thanks so much for introducing a “new” hymn to us! Pardon me if this is a “side comment,” but it touched me that you mentioned that the composer was a woman who was seriously ill and bedridden. I (“T”) am in such a condition myself, and it thrills me to see how many times God has used women in such circumstances to write Christ-honoring poems and hymns. [I write poems sometimes; but most often devotionals and stories.] As far as the worthy hymn, I am sorry that it is not sung more. Can we ever get weary of singing the praises of Jesus? Should the doctrines of His wonderful character ever dim in our minds? Please, no! Praise God for such music; it reminds us that this life is not all there is. It reminds us of Christ, who is Truth; and that His Kingdom shall never end. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

    • Thanks for your encouragement. In about fifty years of studying hymns, I’ve come across this many times–that the hymn writer has a serious disability, or chronic illness, or is going through a painful crisis. But God used these things over and over, to enrich the hymns they wrote. They wrote out of genuine experiences with God. I added a topical article some time ago, listing just a few of the hymn writers who have shared with us through various kinds of trials. You can read it here. God bless.


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