Posted by: rcottrill | January 8, 2014

Hail to the Brightness of Zion’s Glad Morning

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Words: Thomas Hastings (b. Oct. 15, 1784; d. May 15, 1872)
Music: Wesley (or Mason), by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; b. Aug. 11, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn was written in 1830. Lowell Mason, a frequent coworker of Hastings in the area of music, provided the tune for the text.

Graphic Thomas HastingsThomas Hastings struggled his whole life with poor eyesight. Nevertheless, his output in the area of music was tremendous. He is said to have composed over one thousand hymn tunes, written six hundred hymn texts, and edited and published fifty volumes of church music.

Three of the hymn tunes written by Thomas Hastings that are in common use today are: Ortonville, used with Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned, and My God, How Wonderful Thou Art; the tune Retreat, used with From Every Stormy Wind that Blows; and Toplady, used with Rock of Ages.

As a young farm boy, Hastings had to walk six miles to school, and then could only attend in winter, as he was needed on the farm in other seasons of the year. In those early days, a little twelve-page primer on music (only four pages in length) introduced him to what was to become his life long calling. He went on to become so knowledgeable and skilled in the field that he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music, and he gave his diligent attention to teaching church choirs and congregations how to sing.

His son, who became the president of Union Theological Seminary, said of his father:

“He was a devout and earnest Christian, a hard student, and a resolute worker, not laying aside his pen until three days before his death [at the age of eighty-eight].”

Dr. Hastings was a Presbyterian, and an amillennialist in doctrine. He believed in spiritualizing the Old Testament, rather than accepting its plain, literal sense. He thought that God’s promises to Israel of a land of their own, a king to sit on David’s throne, and a coming time of earthly blessing and bounty under their Messiah-King, were to be thought of figuratively as applying in some spiritual or symbolic sense to the church.

It’s from that point of view that he wrote Hail to the Brightness of Zion’s Glad Dawning. His original title shows his thinking. He called it “Missionary Success,” as though that is what the many Old Testament prophecies to Israel were talking about. But though the fruitful outreach of world missions is a reality, this interpretation substitutes human imagination for the clear teaching of the word of God.

The interesting thing is that the hymn can be sung appropriately of the earthly millennial kingdom to be set up when Christ returns. Taken as it stands, it fits the prophetic teaching of the Scriptures well, being a literal description of what passage after passage of God’s Word describes.

CH-1. The coming of the future millennial kingdom will be like the dawning of a new day on the earth. The One whom Malachi calls “the Sun of Righteousness” will come (Mal. 4:2), and the Light that was rejected at His first coming will be joyously received at His return. Then it will be said, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you” (Isa. 60:1).

CH-1) Hail to the brightness of Zion’s glad morning!
Joy to the lands that in darkness have lain!
Hushed be the accents of sorrow and mourning;
Zion in triumph begins her mild reign.

CH-2. The messianic kingdom has been “long by the prophets of Israel foretold.” In passage after passage, the nature of the reign of Christ is described (e.g. Isa. 35:1-10; Jer. 31:38-40; 33:14-22; Amos 9:11-15).

CH-3. In addition to peace and joy among earth’s peoples, the curse will be removed from nature and it will flourish in abundance.

“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the excellency of our God” (Isa. 35:1-2; cf. 51:3).

CH-3) Lo, in the desert rich flowers are springing,
Streams ever copious are gliding along;
Loud from the mountain tops echoes are ringing,
Wastes rise in verdure, and mingle in song.

CH-4. Many times the prophets refer to the “coastlands” (NKJV). It’s a word that signifies islands and other far-off shores, where the Lord will manifest His presence. In the Kingdom Age, the Gentile nations, as well as Israel, will be abundantly blessed (Isa. 24:15; 42:4). The Messiah “shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:4).

CH-4) See, from all lands, from the isles of the ocean,
Praise of Jehovah ascending on high;
Fallen the engines of war and commotion;
Shouts of salvation are rending the sky.

1) What is the danger of spiritualizing Scripture, making it mean something other than what it plainly says?

2) What are some missionary hymns that focus on the post-pentecostal spread of the gospel, without spiritualizing Old Testament truth?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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