Posted by: rcottrill | July 1, 2016

A Few More Years Shall Roll

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Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Leonminster, by George William Martin (b. _____, 1821; d. _____, 1881)

Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The hymn, A Few More Years Shall Roll, was written in 1842. (Some move this one year on, but 1842 seems most likely.) Dr. Bonar had it printed first in leaflet form, so his congregation could sing it on New Year’s Day of 1843. There are critics who don’t care for the hymn at all. To them its message is too depressing. But the author simply wanted to call the believer’s attention to what the Bible says about life’s brevity, and the need to prepare for eternity.

Time certainly seems to fly off on magic wings sometimes. Not so much when we’re caught in a rush hour traffic jam, or sitting in the dentist’s chair. But other times it does. A senior once said to me, “I’m over the hill, and gaining speed!”

When I was a boy, we used to have wonderful family Christmas parties, with aunts and uncles and cousins. Oh, the goodies we ate! Oh, the hilarious games we played! It was such a delight for a little boy that I cried when my parents said it was time to go home. But the good things of this life must come to an end, and that’s sort of depressing. We can take some encouragement in the fact that the trials and troubles we face have a time limit as well.

Jacob confesses, “Few and evil [unpleasant, full of sorrow] have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen. 47:9). Discouraging or not, the Bible often warns us of the shortness of our earthly lives, using a variety of images to make the point.

¤ “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,” says Job, “swifter than a runner” (Job 7:6; 9:25).

¤ “You have made my days as handbreadths,” David tells God, and “as a shadow” (Ps. 39:5; I Chron. 29:15).

¤ Our physical life is “a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

Which brings us to a hymn by Scottish pastor and hymn writer Horatius Bonar. It begins:

CH-1) A few more years shall roll,
A few more seasons come,
And we shall be with those that rest
Asleep within the tomb;
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that great day.

As far as I know, Dr. Bonar did not believe in what’s called “soul sleep”–that we’ll lie totally unconscious in the grave, until resurrection day. He was speaking, as Jesus does, of the physical body appearing as if it’s sleeping, when the person dies (cf. Jn. 11:11-13).

The Apostle Paul says that departing this life means being with Christ (Phil. 1:23)–that the one immediately gives way to the other. “We are confident, yes, well pleased,” he assures us, “rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Christian loved ones are with Christ in glory, and they’ll return with Him, when He comes for His church (I Thess. 4:14).

It’s interesting to see how Bonar worked on hymns–over six hundred of them in all. He kept a notebook in which he jotted ideas when they came to him, thoughts to be expanded on later. Regarding this one, his son found written in his father’s notebook: “A few more suns shall rise and set, a few more years shall come and go.”

See how that was turned into a proper rhyme, as part of the hymn:

CH-2) A few more suns shall set
O’er these dark hills of time,
And we shall be where suns are not
A far serener clime.
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that blest day.

Though it was not his purpose to write a hymn explicitly about heaven, we see a hint of it a number of times. In the above quotation, he’s speaking of the Bible’s statement that there is no need of sun or moon in the heavenly city, because the glory of God illuminates it. (cf. Rev. 21:23). Other stanzas say:

CH-3) A few more storms shall beat
On this wild rocky shore,
And we shall be where tempests cease,
And surges swell no more;
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that blest day.

CH-6) ’Tis but a little while,
And He shall come again
Who died that we might live, who lives
That we with Him may reign;
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that glad day.

The day when “tempests cease.” Surely not a depressing thought at all!

1) What comes to mind when you consider the phrase, “a few more __________” before the end?

2) Since life is brief, and the time of its end usually uncertain, what must we do?

Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal


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