Posted by: rcottrill | December 30, 2013

At Even, Ere the Sun Was Set

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Words: Henry Twells (b. Mar. 13, 1823; d. Jan. 19, 1900)
Music: Angelus, by Georg Joseph (b. circa _____, 1630; d. circa _____, 1668)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Henry Twells was an evangelical Anglican clergyman. He divided his time between pastoral work and serving as a schoolmaster. The good pastor was particularly interested in serving among the poor, and was a kindly friend to all.

The hymn was written in 1868, and the Wordwise Hymns link tells the story of the writing of it. It was matched, in that year, with Joseph’s melody, and published in Hymns Ancient and Modern, with the title “Evening.” The Cyber Hymnal makes an attempt, here and there, to modernize the lyrics, but it’s not done consistently–and in my view is unnecessary. The word “divers” in CH-1 is simply a form of the word diverse, meaning various.

A more serious question was raised over Mr. Twells’ use of the word “ere” (before) in CH-1. By the tradition of the Jewish elders, the Sabbath Day did not end until the sun had set (around 6:00 p.m.), and the carrying of burdens was forbidden until then. Thus bearing a sick or infirm person would not have been allowed. When this was pointed out to Henry Twells, he defended his position, but allowed editors, if they preferred, to change the wording to “when the sun was set.”

There are, however, a couple of solutions which support the author’s version. As he indicated, though Mark 1:32 reads “when the sun had set” (NKJV), Luke’s account (Lk. 4:40) has “when the sun was setting.” Likely there was such a sense of urgency with many that as soon as the sun touched the rim of the horizon and was setting, on they came–and continued coming after the sun was fully set. Another possibility is that many who were ambulatory came before sunset, as no carrying of burdens was involved with them. While others who needed to support loved ones in coming, waited until the sun had set.

This is a wonderful hymn! It’s too bad that few hymnals seem to carry it. Too bad, also, that most hymnals omit CH-4 and 5. Perhaps an eight-stanza hymn is too much for modern editors, but each one of these is a gem, and congregations need to consider them all. I encourage you to go to the Cyber Hymnal and read the full hymn, then teach it to your congregation!

The first two stanzas are introductory. They draw a parallel between the days of Christ’s earthly ministry and today. The compassionate Saviour was present to help and heal then, and He is today as well, even though “Thy form we cannot see” (CH-2). What follows is a perceptive compendium of the various ills and struggles that we all face.

In stanza 3 we’re reminded that:
¤ Some are sick, physically ill, and perhaps in pain.
¤ Some are sad, emotionally distressed or depressed.
¤ Some have never loved the Lord as they should.
¤ Some have “lost the love they had” (Rev. 2:4; cf. Eph. 1:15).

In stanza 4 we’re reminded that:
¤ Some have “worldly care” burdens with finances, employment, etc.
¤ Some struggle with doubts and questions about their faith.
¤ Some wrestle with powerful passions of lust, greed, etc.

In stanza 5 we’re reminded that:
¤ Some are bound by worldly values, though they see the hollowness of them.
¤ Some have been hurt by those they considered to be friends.

In stanza 6 we’re reminded that:
¤ We all battle with sinful tendencies that disturb our spiritual rest in the Lord.
¤ Those committed to serving Christ seem most conscious of their unworthiness.

In stanza 7 we’re reminded that:
¤ Some carry the crippling burden of a shameful past.

Here are a dozen maladies–physical, mental-emotional, spiritual, social–that beset us all. But Henry Twells assures us (CH- 7 and 8) that the Lord Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are” and is able to sympathize with our weakness and our struggles. The invitation to the throne of grace leads him to pray for the mercy of a healing touch from the Saviour (cf. Heb. 4:14-16).

CH-1) At even, ere the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;
O, in what divers pains they met!
O, with what joy they went away!

CH-2) Once more ’tis eventide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if Thy form we cannot see?
We know and feel that Thou art here.

CH-8) Thy touch has still its ancient power.
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.

Questions:
1) If you were able to add to this great hymn, what other challenges and difficulties would you include?

2) Is there someone dealing with one of the things listed that you could help and encourage this week?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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