Posted by: rcottrill | May 18, 2015

Hushed Was the Evening Hymn

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Words: James Drummond Burns (b. Feb. 18, 1823; d. Nov. 27, 1864)
Music: Samuel, by Arthur Seymour Sullivan (b. May 13, 1842; d. Nov. 22, 1900)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This beautiful hymn was published in 1857. James Burns was a Scottish pastor. He struggled with ill health, and died when only forty-one years of age. Burns wrote a number of hymns but there is only one in common use today. It deserves to have a much wider use than it has presently.

As we get older, many of us experience a deterioration in our sense of hearing. But even at its very best, human hearing is far down the scale when compared to that of the animals. Not only is the ability to hear astonishing in some creatures, but so is their skill in interpreting and using the data their senses gather.

In less than a hundredth of a second, an owl can not only hear a mouse creeping on the forest floor, but can determine its speed and direction. The mouse stands little chance! Elephants can hear sound frequencies twenty times lower than we can. And scientists have discovered a species of moth that can hear frequencies fifteen times higher than human beings can.

Both bats and dolphins use a system of sonar to find their way in virtual darkness. They emit a series or chirps or clicks, and when the sound bounces back to them, they quickly gather information from it. They almost instantly know an object’s size and makeup, and its direction of movement, if any. With this animal radar, given by our Creator, a dolphin can distinguish something the size of a coin seventy metres away.

The matter of how well we hear, and what we’ll do about it has a spiritual application. A number of times we read of the Lord Jesus issuing a challenge, after a time of teaching, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (e.g. Matt. 13:9). He wasn’t referring to the problem of physical deafness. The Amplified Bible helps us by expanding the meaning: “He who has ears to hear, let him be listening, and let him consider and perceive and comprehend.”

When God speaks to us, perhaps through our reading of the Bible, or through the pastor’s Sunday sermon, we need to employ our minds to analyze the information, and evaluate it in our hearts, applying a valid spiritual value system to the communication. A study of God’s Word requires answers to several basic questions: What does it say? What does it mean (in its historical context)? And what does it mean to me, today?

In Hushed Was the Evening Hymn. Burns makes a devotional application of something that happened to the prophet Samuel as a boy.

The boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the LORD where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the LORD called Samuel. And he answered, ‘Here I am!’ So he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ And he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ And he went and lay down. Then the LORD called yet again, ‘Samuel!’ So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ He answered, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ (Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him.) And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. Then he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you did call me.’ Then Eli perceived that the LORD had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears”’” (I Sam. 3:1-9).

Samuel did as he was bidden, and was given a message from the Lord. That was only the beginning. He went on to become an influential prophet, and the greatest of Israel’s judges, in that era. God spoke to him, and through him to the people, many times. And he not only heard with his ears, but understood with his mind, and grasped the import and passion of his message with a servant’s heart.

By means of a fine hymn, Pastor Burns calls upon each of us, likewise, to respond appropriately to the Word of God. It’s worth checking the Cyber Hymnal link to read the entire hymn. For the sake of space, I’ve omitted a couple of stanzas  here.

CH-1) Hushed was the evening hymn, the temple courts were dark;
The lamp was burning dim before the sacred ark;
When suddenly a voice divine rang through the silence of the shrine.

CH-3) O give me Samuel’s ear, the open ear, O Lord,
Alive and quick to hear each whisper of Thy Word,
Like him to answer at Thy call, and to obey Thee first of all.

CH-4) O give me Samuel’s heart, a lowly heart, that waits
Where in Thy house Thou art, or watches at Thy gates;
By day and night, a heart that still moves at the breathing of Thy will.

1) What will characterize a believer’s life if he/she has an ear like Samuel’s?

2) What difference will it make to have a heart like Samuel’s?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Give me Samuel’s ear indeed. It is difficult to hear the voice of the Lord amid our busyness in this world. Thanks for this post.


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