Posted by: rcottrill | September 25, 2017

Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

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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: John Cennick (b. Dec. 12, 1718; d. July 4, 1755; revised version by Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Regent Square, by Henry Thomas Smart (b. Oct. 26, 1813; d. July 6, 1879)

Wordwise Hymns (John Cennick) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In 1885, James King produced a book (for the Anglican Church in Britain and America) listing the most popular hymns of his day, based on how many of 52 hymn books he reviewed contained each hymn. No hymn appeared in all 52, but there were four that could be found in 51. They are:

All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night (by Thomas Ken)
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (by Charles Wesley)
Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending (by Charles Wesley)
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me (by Augustus Toplady)

The present hymn thus ranked high at that time. Though it’s perhaps not used as much now, it is a fine hymn. I have used the tune Regent Square, which is also used with Angels from the Realms of Glory (Number 88 on King’s list).

We call them souvenirs or mementos (the latter coming from the Latin word for remember). They’re objects that remind us of a person or past event. Photographs fit that category. And now with smart phones, we not only have a camera handy, we can carry dozens of photos with us, to look at when we please.

Beside me as I write is a small painting (just over two inches across). It depicts a treed landscape, by the side of a river, and is quite detailed for its size. Each time I look at it I’m reminded of a boyhood friend.

Don and I were buddies since the second grade. But as he grew older it became evident that something wasn’t quite right with his mind. We went our separate ways, but I heard through friends that he had ended up as a homeless drug addict on the streets of one of our major cities. Some years later, word came that he’d passed away.

But Don was not without ability. A largely self-taught artist, he did some quite amazing things. One day he decided he was going to climb up a flagpole and stay there long enough to produce a world record number of paintings. He stayed up for many days, with his sister sending up food with a rope and pulley system. When he finally descended, he had created over seven hundred paintings the size of the one beside me. Whether he achieved a world record or not, I treasure the keepsake, and remember my friend.

An itinerant evangelist, and friend of the Wesleys, John Cennick (1718-1755) also wrote a few hymns. However, he wasn’t very good at it. His hymn about the second coming begins strangely,

Lo! He cometh, countless trumpets,
Blow before his bloody sign!

But his friend, hymn writer Charles Wesley, saw merit in the subject matter and undertook to polish Cennick’s creation.

The connection with my earlier comments lies in the concept of mementos and individuals and past events. Though we expect our resurrection bodies will be perfected, and not carry the disabilities or scars of the past, the Lord Jesus Christ seems to be the exception to that. When He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He pointed to the wounds in His hands and feet as evidence that it was indeed He (Lk. 24:40).

And later, when Thomas, who’d been absent at Christ’s first meeting with them, doubted their word, the Lord appeared and said to him, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (Jn. 20:27).

In his prophetic vision of the heavenly city, the Apostle John saw Jesus as “a Lamb as though it had been slain,” and he heard a huge assembly praising Him “saying with a loud voice: ‘“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Rev. 5:6, 12).

It appears from this that our Saviour will bear in His body for all eternity the marks of His passion. In a real sense they’re mementos of Calvary, reminders of what He did for us there. These tokens of His sacrifice will continue to fill us with gratitude and be reflected in our songs of praise, as we join in “the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). A stanza of Cennick’s revised hymn (not often used today) speaks of this. (See stanza six below.)

CH-1) Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

CH-6) The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshipers;
With what rapture, with what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

CH-7) Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!

1) What, to you, is the most wonderful or blessed thing about the return of Christ?

2) What things in the world around us suggest to you His coming could be very near?

Wordwise Hymns (John Cennick) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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