Posted by: rcottrill | February 19, 2014

Hark, Ten Thousand Harps and Voices

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Words: Thomas Kelly (b. July 13, 1769; d. May 14, 1855)
Music: Harwell, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Kelly died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The hymn was published by the author in 1806. The original had seven stanzas. As of this writing, the Cyber Hymnal does not include the second stanza, and has somewhat changed the order of the others. Modern hymnals usually include only three or four stanzas–most often CH-1, 2, 5 and 6. The tune’s composer, Lowell Mason, added the refrain later.

Thomas Kelly was the son of a judge who lived in Kellyville, Ireland. In his early years, Thomas was burdened about his sin, but could find no deliverance and peace. In his distress, he tried various forms of self discipline and self punishment, in hopes of meriting God’s salvation. It wasn’t until his university years in Dublin that he learned about the gospel of grace. When he found the new and living way, through faith in Christ, he became a zealous preacher of the gospel.

While he preached in many places over the years, Dublin became home base where he served as a pastor for over six decades. Kelly was also a notable hymn writer, with 767 hymns to his credit. (Praise the Saviour, Ye Who Know Him, and Look, Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious are others.) Pastor Kelly was ushered into the presence of the Lord at the age of eighty-six. His dying words were, “Not my will, but Thine be done.)

T he present hymn deals with the Lord Jesus Christ as He is at the present time, seated upon His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21), at His right hand (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3), and worshiped by the angels of heaven. The original inspiration for the hymn was Hebrews 1:6, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” (This text, in turn, is a version of Psalm 97:7, which says, “Worship Him, all you gods [or angels].”)

Other passages in Revelation seem to be alluded to in the hymn. For example: “I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. And they sang as it were a new song before the throne” (Rev. 14:2-3). Or in another place:

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev. 5:11-14).

(CH-1) Hark, ten thousand harps and voices
Sound the note of praise above!
Jesus reigns, and heav’n rejoices,
Jesus reigns, the God of love;
See, He sits on yonder throne;
Jesus rules the world alone.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen!

2) Well may angels, bright and glorious,
Sing the praises of the Lamb;
While on earth, He proved victorious;
Now He bears a matchless name.
Well may angels sing of Him:
Heav’n supplies no richer theme.

Though we will one day stand in the presence of the Lord, in glorified resurrection bodies, we can approach the throne of grace now, through faith. The hymn invites us to do just that.

CH-3) Come, ye saints, unite your praises
With the angels round His throne;
Soon, we hope, our God will raise us
To the place where He is gone.
Meet it is that we should sing,
Glory, glory, to our King!

Another thing that can give believers great joy is rehearsing the gospel story, and meditating on the matchless grace that brought the Lord Jesus from the glories of heaven to be our Saviour (cf. II Cor. 8:9).

CH-4) Sing how Jesus came from heaven,
How He bore the cross below,
How all power to Him is given,
How He reigns in glory now.
’Tis a great and endless theme
O, ’tis sweet to sing of Him.

CH-6) Saviour, hasten Thine appearing;
Bring, O bring the glorious day,
When, the awful summons bearing,
Heav’n and earth shall pass away;
Then with golden harps we’ll sing,
“Glory, glory to our King!”

1) Kelly says, “heaven supplies no richer theme” for praise than the Person and work of Christ. What are some things about the Lord Jesus that will motivate praise?

2) What will be the difference between the praise offered by the angels, and that offered by the saints?

Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Kelly died)
The Cyber Hymnal


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