Posted by: rcottrill | February 13, 2017

Down Life’s Dark Vale We Wander

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Words: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss

Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In spite of his relatively short life, Bliss was one of the premier hymn writer’s of the nineteenth century. Many of his songs still appear in evangelical hymnals. The present song is sometimes called When Jesus Comes. It’s not one of his better creations, being notably repetitious. The phrases “till Jesus comes” and “when Jesus comes” are repeated thirty-six times, counting the refrains! Nonetheless this does highlight a great and eternal turning point.

When there’s a history-making event, one altering the lives of many people, it could be called a turning point–especially if things afterward are not what they were before.

Canadians could speak of the differences before and after Confederation in 1867, when a vast swath of the North American Continent was united to become the Dominion of Canada. Americans look to July 4th, 1776, as the birthday of the United States of America.

But few would deny–whether they’re Christians or not–that the day Christ was born is one of overwhelming significance across the world. Lives have been changed, and history altered, by that one event and what grew from it. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe effectively show us that in their book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? And New York City pastor, Dr. Ralph Sockman, perceptively wrote, “The hinge of history is on the stable door of Bethlehem.” What a turning point!

It has even affected the calendar we use every day. Back in the year 525, Dionysius, of Scythia Minor, introduced a system counting the years starting with the birth of Christ. Based on his work, the years before are now labeled BC (Before Christ), and those after are called AD (short for Anno Domini, meaning the Year of Our Lord). There is no year Zero, of course. Before Jesus’ birth it was BC, and the instant after it became the first year AD.

Dionysius did have a problem, however, calculating exactly when this change took place. We now have more complete historical data about that era. We know that the ruler named Herod, the one who sought to kill the Baby Jesus (Matt. 2:13), died in 4 BC. That means the more likely date of Christ’s birth is some time in the year before that.

But that doesn’t invalidate the “hinge of history” nature of the birth. Nor does the attempt to do away entirely with any reference to Christ in dating. Secularists prefer to use the terms BCE (Before the Common Era), and CE (the Common Era), but that doesn’t change the overwhelming influence of Christ’s birth. And there’s nothing “common” about that!

The Bible says, “the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (I Jn. 4:14). Though He was only on the earth, physically, for a short time, He changed everything. He died on Calvary to pay our debt of sin, and countless millions since have trusted in Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Before the cross, the Old Testament tells of animal sacrifices being offered, over and over. But they weren’t the final answer (Heb. 10:4). They were symbols pointing forward to the one great sacrifice of Christ (Jn. 1:29; 3:16).

But there’s another day that will bring even more dramatic changes than the birth of the Saviour at His first coming. Two angels spoke of it at the time of His ascension back into heaven. They said:

“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner [in just the same way] as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11; cf. Matt. 24:30).

As people saw Him then, physically, visibly ascend, they’ll see Him again at His return. What changes there will be at that time! Many Scriptures speak of it. For believers there will be no more crying or pain in heaven, no more sorrow or death (Rev. 21:4). Wonderful!

One day in 1872, hymn writer Philip Bliss (1838-1876) heard two women talking. One quoted an English author named Anna Shipton, who wrote, “This may be the day of His coming.” It may indeed. And Bliss wrote a song about the before and after.

CH-1) Down life’s dark vale we wander,
Till Jesus comes;
We watch and wait and wonder,
Till Jesus comes.

All joy His loved ones bringing,
When Jesus comes;
All praise through Heaven ringing,
When Jesus comes.
All beauty bright and vernal,
When Jesus comes;
All glory, grand, eternal,
When Jesus comes.

CH-3) No more heart pangs nor sadness,
When Jesus comes;
All peace and joy and gladness,
When Jesus comes.

CH-4) All doubts and fears will vanish,
When Jesus comes;
All gloom His face will banish,
When Jesus comes.

1) What changes in particular are you looking forward to at the return of Christ?

2) What things in the world suggest that His coming may be very near?

Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal


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