Posted by: rcottrill | June 14, 2017

Jesus, These Eyes Have Never Seen

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Words: Ray Palmer (b. Nov. 12, 1808; d. Mar. 29, 1887)
Music: Sawley, by James Walch (b. June 21, 1837; d. Aug. 30, 1901)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ray Palmer)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Dr. Ray Palmer was both a beloved American pastor and a hymn writer. His best known hymn is My Faith Looks Up to Thee, but today we’ll look at another of his creations, a lovely hymn about the realized presence of God. The Cyber Hymnal gives a date of 1858 for it, but Hymnary.org has a publication from 1855 that includes it.

Walch’s tune Sawley, in the Common Metre (8.6.8.6) is a fine one. But if you are more familiar with Crimond (to which we sing The Lord’s My Shepherd), it works well too.

Unseen, but not unknown. Many famous people we’ve never had a chance to meet have, nonetheless, been a great help to us in various ways, or brought us countless hours of inspiration and pleasure.

For example, Thomas Edison died in New Jersey, in 1931, and very few still around today can claim to have met him face to face. Yet every time we turn on a light, or listen to a recording, or watch a movie, we have him to thank in part. In a way, we’ve actually come to know him, to some degree, through the products of his inventive mind.

People still read A Christmas Carol, or Oliver Twist, though author Charles Dickens has been gone for nearly one hundred and fifty years. Or they delight in the adventures of detective Sherlock Holmes, though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930.

The sublime music of the oratorio Messiah was written by George Frederick Handel in 1741, and the oratorio Elijah, by Felix Mendelssohn, was first performed back in 1846, yet these masterpieces continue to bless multitudes today. And when it comes to our hymnals, the sacred songs of Isaac Watts, John Newton, Charles Wesley, Philip Bliss, Fanny Crosby, and hundreds of others do likewise, though their creators are no longer with us.

The same can be said in a way, of course, for the Lord. Christ promised to be with His followers continually (Matt. 28:20).

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear” (Heb. 13:5-6).

But it’s His spiritual presence we have today, not His physical form. Christ died in AD 30. Then forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3), He ascended back to the throne of God in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:1-3). Yet we know Him and love Him today, and are blessed by His presence, even though He’s not perceived with our physical eyes.

Peter writes of “Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (I Pet. 1:7-8), just as the writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses enduring the rigours of the wilderness with the Israelites by seeing [by faith, and spiritual insight] Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:26-27).

One evening, Pastor Palmer was at home, sitting in his study, preparing a sermon for the coming Sunday. And he tells us:

“I needed a volume from my closed bookcase on the other side of the room. I rose from my chair and walked over to get it. As I opened the door, the very book appeared straight to my hand.”

Many of us have likely had a similar experience. We go to find something we need, and we come upon it so easily it almost seems to put itself into our hands. But Palmer saw a spiritual truth in this little incident.

“At once it occurred to me that in some such way the face of Christ would be unveiled to us, and the thought so filled my heart that I turned to my desk and composed the hymn.”

His hymn says:

CH-1) Jesus, these eyes have never seen,
That radiant form of Thine;
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessèd face and mine.

CH-2) I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
Yet art Thou oft with me;
And earth hath ne’er so dear a spot,
As where I meet with Thee.

CH-3) Like some bright dream that comes unsought,
When slumbers o’er me roll,
Thine image ever fills my thought,
And charms my ravished soul.

CH-4) Yet though I have not seen, and still
Must rest in faith alone,
I love Thee, dearest Lord, and will,
Unseen, but not unknown.

CH-5) When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
And still this throbbing heart,
The rending veil shall Thee reveal,
All glorious as Thou art.

Questions:
1) What evidence do believers have of the constant presence of Christ?

2) How does the awareness of His presence affect your words and actions?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ray Palmer)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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