Posted by: rcottrill | February 17, 2014

Go, Labour On

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Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Pentecost, by William Boyd (b. _____, 1847; d. Feb. 16, 1928)

Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Written in 1843, this hymn was the first Bonar wrote for adults. His previous songs were intended for the children in his Sunday School. This one was designed to challenge and encourage his fellow workers in the church at Leith, Scotland. Bonar called it, “The Useful Life.” All of the original eight stanzas of this wonderful hymn are worth a look, but hymn books today commonly use four or five: CH-1, 2, 4, 5, and 7.

There is an interesting history behind the tune Pentecost, which is also traditionally used for John Monsell’s hymn, Fight the Good Fight. Actually, the tune was written in 1864 for Charles Wesley’s hymn about the Holy Spirit, Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire–and appropriately named Pentecost, because of the coming of the Spirit then, and the birth of the church.

However, some years later, William Boyd, the composer, was accosted on a London street by his good friend Arthur Sullivan. Sir Arthur was in the process of editing a new hymn book, and he said to Boyd, “I’ve seen a tune of yours which I must have.” Boyd agreed for him to employ the tune.

He was paid for that, but Sullivan never informed him of the hymn the melody would be associated with. He says, “When I saw the tune [published in his hymn book] I was horrified to find that Sullivan had assigned it to Fight the Good Fight. We had a regular fisticuffs [a fight] about it.” But, when the composer saw the public acceptance of the new pairing, he accepted it.

T he present hymn is about Christian service, “labouring” for the Lord. That will mean putting a priority on living for Christ, and doing His will. Following the example of the Lord Jesus, the committed believer will say:

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work [i.e. when our opportunity is gone]” (Jn. 9:4).

Or as Paul assured the Corinthians, out of his love for them: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (II Cor. 12:15). That describes the expenditure of personal resources for love of Christ, spending ourselves, and being utterly spent, holding nothing back.

CH-1. Service for Christ is “the Father’s will” (II Pet. 3:9), and the Lord Jesus (our Master) set us the example of servanthood (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 13:15).

CH-2. Sinners and this evil world will oppose us, not encourage us. “Men heed thee [not], love thee [not], praise thee not.” But we are assured of the praise (and later rewards) of the Lord (Jn. 15:18-21; cf. Matt. 5:11-12; Rev. 22:12).

CH-1) Go, labour on: spend, and be spent,
Thy joy to do the Father’s will:
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?

CH-2) Go, labour on! ’tis not for naught
Thine earthly loss is heavenly gain;
Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;
The Master praises–what are men?

CH-4. It’s vitally important to realize that we are merely channels or conveyers of the transforming truth of God’s Word. We do not have the power in ourselves to affect spiritual change. “Your hands are weak, your knees are faint.” In the words of the Lord Jesus, “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves…but our sufficiency is from God” (II Cor. 3:5; cf. I Cor. 2:3-5).

CH-5. We need a sense of urgency, realizing the shortness of the time before Christ’s return. “The world’s dark night is hastening on” (Jn. 9:4; cf. Jn. 12:35).

CH-4) Go, labour on! Your hands are weak,
Your knees are faint, your soul cast down;
Yet falter not; the prize you seek
Is near–a kingdom and a crown.

CH-5) Go, labour on while it is day:
The world’s dark night is hastening on;
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;
It is not thus that souls are won.

CH-7. Service for the Lord will involve toil, and conflict, and it will require godly wisdom. We need to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26:41). And the servants of Christ must venture forth into “the world’s highway” and compel the wanderer to come in (Lk. 14:23).

CH-7) Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray,
Be wise the erring soul to win;
Go forth into the world’s highway,
Compel the wanderer to come in.

1) I have heard from representatives of various denominations and Christian agencies that it seems harder and harder to get young people to commit to full-time Christian service. Why might this be?

2) What makes labour for Christ difficult? What makes it a blessing?

Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born)
The Cyber Hymnal


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