Posted by: rcottrill | September 29, 2017

O Still in Accents Sweet

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Words: Samuel Longfellow (b. June 18, 1819; d. Oct. 3, 1892)
Music: St. Mark, by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; Feb. 21, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Samuel Longfellow, the brother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, seems to have shared something of the poetic gift of his older brother. He wrote many hymns and also published collections of hymns. The original title of the present song was “Behold the Fields Are White.” Another tune sometimes used with this hymn is Mount Calvary, by Robert Prescott Stewart (1825-1894)

The rhythmic sweep of a scythe has given way to the rumble of much more efficient (and expensive) farming equipment across the land, but the basic goal is the same: to put food on the table.

Many steps and hours of labour come before the harvest is brought in. The land must be worked, and the seed sown, each in its time. And in many homes there are ardent prayers for just the right amount of sun and rain to maximize the yield. We’d think it strange, if not actually irresponsible, for a farmer to labour long hours at the earlier work and then ignore the harvesting of what is produced.

The book of Proverbs heaps scorn on the lazy person who stops before the work is done, asking him to consider the industry of the ants. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which…provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). “He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Prov. 10:5). We need to finish well.

“Sow fields and plant vineyards, that they may yield a fruitful harvest” (Ps. 107:37). That is God’s plan. And what’s true in the physical realm can be applied in the spiritual as well. In the service of God and the proclamation of the gospel there’s a sowing and reaping, with dependence on the Lord. “I planted,” says Paul, “Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:6).

Christ told His disciples, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16). The lasting fruit of their service would involve leading others to faith in Christ, and teaching them so that they would be built up in the faith, becoming servants of Christ themselves.

“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!’” (Jn. 4:34-35).

“Then He [the Lord] said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest’” (Matt. 9:37-38).

There are those, such as pastors and missionaries, who engage in this work full-time, or vocationally. But there is work for all to do. Notice two things in the Scriptures quoted above. The Lord calls us to “lift up [our] eyes and look at [raise our eyes and observe] the fields” (Jn. 4:35). Perhaps we’ve been so concerned with our own things, and our own plans, that we’ve been looking down at them, when we need to look around and see the deep spiritual needs of others.

We can all do that. Then, we can also pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38). And pray for the workers who are already serving the Lord around the world. The Apostle Paul sensed the need for Christians to pray for him, and he mentions it many times (e.g. Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4; I Thess. 5:25).

In 1864, Samuel Longfellow published a pretty missionary hymn that draws on some of the texts quoted. The song says:

CH-1) O still in accents sweet and strong
Sounds forth the ancient word,
“More reapers for white harvest fields,
More labourers for the Lord.”

CH-3) Where prophets’ word, and martyrs’ blood,
And prayers of saints were sown,
We, to their labours entering in,
Would reap where they have strown.

CH-4) O Thou whose call our hearts has stirred,
To do Thy will we come;
Thrust in our sickles at Thy Word,
And bear our harvest home.

1) What are you doing for the cause of world missions?

2) What are some other things you might do to help reach the world with the gospel?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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