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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.
Words: Charitie de Cheney Lees Smith Bancroft (b. June 21, 1841; d. June 20, 1923)
Music: Sweet Hour, by William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)
Note: Charitie Bancroft was an Irish-American hymn writer. The daughter of an Irish clergyman, at some point she emigrated to the United States. In 1863 she published this hymn about Christ’s heavenly work, which she entitled “The Advocate.”
As to the tune (originally used with Sweet Hour of Prayer), the Cyber Hymnal offers Sagina as an alternative (used with Wesley’s And Can It Be?). I suggest you consider splitting each of the three 8-line stanzas in two. There are many more options with the 22.214.171.124 metre. To me, the truths need a tune a little more sturdy and stalwart than Bradbury’s meandering one. Try Duke Street (which is usually used with Jesus Shall Reign), or Germany (used with Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness).
It often amazes us, when we think about it. Our ancestors might simply gaze in awed disbelief at what we’re doing. We type the letters of words on a keyboard and they appear instantly on an illuminated screen. With ease, we correct any errors, we click “Print,” and our work appears on paper, almost soundlessly, in perfect, jet-black type.
Those who’ve been around long enough to have worked with the old typewriters appreciate the difference. The noisy clatter of keys that sometimes jammed, white-out or correction fluid, messy carbon copies, the repeated need to swipe a carriage return to move to a new line. Isn’t progress wonderful?
These changes have come about, in the last few decades, because of the ever more sophisticated computers we use, with their amazing array of programs and features. And they continue to shrink in size. A pocket-sized smart phone can do far more than the early computers that took up so much of our desk space. And the magic leading to the finished produce is hidden from view on a hard drive. We can’t see it happening.
There are other examples of that. The pipes and wires that bring water and electricity into our homes are normally out of sight. Hidden, but at work for us day and night. We turn a tap, or flip a switch, and almost always the water or electric power is there. The phenomenon is evident in nature too. We can’t see the wind, or the sun’s rays, but we see the handiwork of both, usually benign, but sometimes rising to an intensity that is harsh and hurtful.
In the spiritual realm, this invisible activity applies to Christ. The Son of God took on our humanity, and walked this earth for about thirty-five years. For the last three He undertook a public ministry, teaching people, and demonstrating His supernatural power. Both verbally and with miraculous signs He identified Himself as Israel’s Messiah-King.
But He was rejected, and cruelly crucified. For a brief time His fearful followers saw that as a devastating end of all their hopes. Then He rose from the dead, Conqueror over death and the grave. And believers learned that, far from being a defeat, His death was part of God’s plan. In it, the sinless Saviour paid our debt of sin, so that all who believe on Him might be forgiven, and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16).
Though His spiritual presence is with us still, the Lord Jesus is no longer walking the earth in physical form. He ascended back into heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3). The work Christ engages in there is detailed in the New Testament. It’s too extensive to deal with adequately in a short article, but here are a few things.
¤ He is our heavenly Intercessor and Advocate (Heb. 7:25; I Jn. 2:1-2).
¤ He is our Mediator and means of access to our heavenly Father in prayer (I Tim. 2:5; Eph. 1:6; 2:18).
¤ He is our great High Priest, and a dispenser of heavenly grace to meet our needs (Phil. 4:13, 19; Heb. 4:15-16).
¤ He is Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23), and a provider of gifted workers to the church (Eph. 4:11-12).
¤ He is preparing heaven to be the dwelling place of His own (Jn. 14:2-3).
And Oh! so much more! Suffice to say that Christ is hidden, but at work on behalf of every child of God. Bancroft’s hymn is loaded with biblical allusions to the heavenly work of Christ.
CH-1) Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
CH-2) When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
1) Thinking of which heavenly ministry of Christ has been the most blessed to you?
2) Are there any other hymns you know that speak of Christ’s heavenly work? (If you’re stuck, Charles Wesley has a great one. See.)