Words: John Bakewell (b. _____, 1721; d. Mar. 18, 1819); Martin Madan (b. Oct. 5, 1725; d. May 1, 1790); Augustus Montague Toplady (b. Nov. 4, 1740; d. Aug. 11, 1778)
Music: Autumn, by Francois Hippolyte Barthelemon (b. July 27, 1741; d. July 23, 1808)
The Cyber Hymnal
Note: As indicated above, several men contributed to the making of this hymn. When it first appeared, the hymn had two stanzas. In 1757, back in the day when they believed in long book titles, it was published in (are you ready for this?) A Collection of Hymns Addressed to the Holy, Holy, Triune God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, Our Mediator and Advocate.
John Bakewell was a lay preacher working under John and Charles Wesley. Thomas Olivers wrote the great hymn The God of Abraham Praise while visiting in his home. Through his long life of ninety-eight years (a longevity more rare for those times) he was known for his holy Christian walk. He is buried near John Wesley, and on his tombstone are the words: “He adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour eighty years, and preached His glorious gospel about seventy years.”
When Martin Madan published the hymn in 1760, two additional stanzas were added. Mr. Bakewell’s first was retained. Stanza two was new, and Bakewell’s second stanza was split in two, with half being added to additional stanzas 3 and 4. In 1776 Augustus Toplady altered the hymn somewhat to strengthen a Calvinistic doctrinal perspective.
The Cyber Hymnal offers five possible tunes for this hymn. I’m most familiar with Barthelemon’s tune Autumn being used with it, but Pritchard’s Hyfrydol works very well too, and the latter may be more familiar to some congregations.
This is a true hymn–and a great one–addressed and directed as it is to God Himself. (There is an exception when the author calls upon the angels of heaven to join the saints in the praise of Jesus, the Emmanuel, in CH-4.) This is what’s known as an Ascension Hymn, but if your church doesn’t specifically mark Ascension Sunday, it could be used at the Easter season.
The hymn looks back at the cross, but for the purpose of establishing a contrast to Christ’s present enthronement in glory, and showing why He is so honoured now. The Bible says:
“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” (Phil. 2:8-11).
When the Lord Jesus was on earth He was “despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3). But He came to purchase our salvation. He has “borne our sin and shame.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” Isa. 53:6). (Note: The word “Paschal” in the second stanza means having to do with Passover, or Easter.)
CH-1) Hail, Thou once despisèd Jesus! Hail, Thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us; Thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, Thou universal Saviour, who hast borne our sin and shame!
By Thy merits we find favour; life is given through Thy name.
CH- 2) Paschal Lamb, by God appointed, all our sins on Thee were laid;
By almighty love anointed, Thou hast full atonement made.
Every sin may be forgiven through the virtue of Thy blood;
Opened is the gate of heaven, reconciled are we with God.
Now comes the contrast. When Christ ascended back into heaven, He took His seat at the right had of God the Father. “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
And as the final stanza indicates, all glory and praise are due to God the Son for what He has done, and what He has accomplished for us. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!… For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:12, 9).
CH-3) Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory, there forever to abide;
All the heavenly hosts adore Thee, seated at Thy Father’s side.
There for sinners Thou art pleading; there Thou dost our place prepare;
Thou for saints art interceding till in glory they appear.
CH-4) Worship, honour, power and blessing Christ is worthy to receive;
Loudest praises, without ceasing, right it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits, bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
Help to sing of Jesus’ merits, help to chant Emmanuel’s praise!
1) Can you list a number of contrasts between what the Bible says about Christ when He was on earth, and what we’re told about Him in heaven?
2) What does the Bible tell us about the present ministry of Christ in heaven?