Posted by: rcottrill | July 5, 2013

Day Is Dying in the West

Words: Mary Artemisia Lathbury (b. Aug. 10,1841; d. Oct. 20, 1913)
Music: Chautauqua, by William Fiske Sherman (b. Mar. 14, 1826; d. Apr. 14, 1888)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Wordwise Hymns link will tell you more about Mary Lathbury, and about the Chautauqua movement with which she was so closely associated. (The word is pronounced Shuh-TALK-wuh.) William Sherman, who wrote the tune, was the music director at the Chautauqua camp.

There is some question as to the date when the hymn was written. Though Miss Lathbury at one point said the first two stanzas were written in 1880, it seems that August of 1877 is more likely. Many who admired the hymn wished it were longer, and the author herself added two more stanzas around 1890.

The text as I’ve got it below departs from what is found on the Cyber Hymnal site at a couple of small points.

☼ In CH-1, Mary Lathbury’s original fourth line was “Sets her evening lamps alight.” This is the way the hymn is found in various hymn books. It distresses me that we’re so  intimidated by the political correctness police that we’re afraid even to use a feminine pronoun poetically here. (Compare the feminine personification of wisdom in the Hebrew poetry of Proverbs–Prov. 1:20-21; 8:1-2.)

☼ Second, in CH-3 (a stanza omitted by some hymnals) the phrase “Heart of Love” should be capitalized as a title for the Lord. (Again, various hymn books have done so.) I know many hymn books and even Bible translations do not do this. But I believe it shows respect for Deity, and sometimes clarifies the meaning as well.

It’s unfortunate that so many churches no longer have a Sunday evening service, when evening hymns would be most appropriate. This is one of the most beautiful ones we have. I encourage you to make use of it any time you can. While it’s not of the calibre of Reginald Heber’s hymn Holy, Holy Holy, and does not contain much in the way of deep doctrinal truths, it is a joyous expression of praise. “Let heaven and earth praise Him” (Ps. 69:34).

There are few things more inspiring of worship than the star-spangled heavens on a clear, dark night. The “evening lamps” are truly awe-inspiring.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Ps. 8:3-4). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light!” (Ps. 148:1-3).

CH-1) Day is dying in the west;
Heav’n is touching earth with rest;
Wait and worship while the night
Sets her evening lamps alight
Through all the sky.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heav’n and earth are full of Thee!
Heav’n and earth are praising Thee,
O Lord most high!

The hymn’s refrain was inspired by a vision of the Lord God given to the prophet Isaiah.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of Hi8s robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’” (Isa. 6:1-3).

The seraphim (meaning fiery ones) are angelic beings engaged in the eternal praise of God (cf. Rev. 4:8). The triple use of the word “holy” (sacred, set apart) at least suggests the Trinity of the Godhead. (Notice the use of the plural in vs. 8, “Who will go [as a messenger] for Us.”) The repetition may also be a means of indicating the intensity and solemnity of angelic worship.

CH-3) While the deepening shadows fall,
Heart of Love enfolding all,
Through the glory and the grace
Of the stars that veil Thy face,
Our hearts ascend.

As we look forward to the passing away of the present universe (II Pet. 3:10, 12), and God’s creation of the new (II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), it is fitting to see eternity as the dawning of a new day. Names and titles of Christ support this sense of a new beginning yet to come. He is the rising “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2); “the Dayspring [Dawning] from on high” (Lk. 1:78). and “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16).

CH-4) When forever from our sight
Pass the stars, the day, the night,
Lord of angels, on our eyes
Let eternal morning rise
And shadows end.

1) Can you, or do you (and your church) make use of this hymn?

2) What other evening hymns especially bless you?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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