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Words: attributed to Ambrose of Milan (b. circa _____, 340; d. Apr. 4, 397); a composite English translation
Music: Winchester New, first published with a German hymn, in 1690, in the Musicalisch Handbuch der geistlichen Melodien; arranged by William Henry Havergal (b. Jan. 18, 1793; d. Apr. 19, 1870)
Note: Many have produced English translations and paraphrases of this ancient hymn. (William McCutchan notes a couple of dozen he has seen.) On the Cyber Hymnal there is one by Robert Bridges (1844-1930) and John Mason Neale (1818-1866), and another by Louis Fitzgerald Benson (1855-1930). John Chandler (1806-1876) created yet another one, as did the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The version I’ve used here is a combination from several sources.
As to the tune, the arranger cited, William Henry Havergal, was the father of well known hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal.
The One who is the “Splendour of God’s glory bright” is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a glory in His divine character and, when the veil of His incarnate condescension is lifted, there is also a visible glory light radiating from His person.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matt. 17:2). “Who being the brightness of His [God’s] glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).
1) O Splendour of God’s glory bright,
From light eternal bringing light,
Thou Light of life, light’s living Spring,
True Day, all days illumining.
The Lord Jesus is pictured as the Sun in a text by Malachi: “The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings [i.e. sunbeams]” (Mal. 4:2). In addition, several texts speak of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon those who need Him (e.g. Zech. 12:10).
2) Come, very Sun of heaven’s love,
In lasting radiance from above,
And pour the Holy Spirit’s ray
On all we think or do today.
There is an interesting reference to the Lord in the third stanza, as personifying Sovereign Grace. Grace and mercy are available to us, through prayer, as Hebrews declares (Heb. 4:14-16), and God has promised to provide the way to escape, when temptation arises (I Cor. 10:13).
3) And now to Thee our prayers ascend,
O Father glorious without end;
We plead with Sovereign Grace for pow’r
To conquer in temptation’s hour.
The hymn writer prays that God will strengthen his determination to do what is right, and keep him from envying others. He wants a revitalized faith, and a constancy in hating what is false and loving what is true (Ps. 40:13; I Cor. 15:56-57). Added to this, he wants to experience the joy of the Lord each day (Neh. 8:10), and maintain purity of thought (Phil. 4:8).
4) Confirm our will to do the right,
And keep our hearts from envy’s blight;
Let faith her eager fires renew,
And hate the false, and love the true.
5) O joyful be the passing day
With thoughts as pure as morning’s ray,
With faith like noontide shining bright,
Our souls unshadowed by the night.
The prayer concludes (in the composite version I’m using) with a Trinitarian doxology.
6) All laud to God the Father be;
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore.
1) What need expressed in the hymn is particularly yours today?
2) How are the blessings asked for made available to us, through Christ?