Posted by: rcottrill | October 6, 2017

The Shadows of the Evening Hours

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Adelaide Anne Procter (b. Oct. 30, 1825; d. Feb. 2, 1864)
Music: St. Leonard (or Hiles), by Henry Hiles (b. Dec. 31, 1826; d. Oct. 20, 1904)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: English author Adelaide Procter was a friend of Charles Dickens, and he printed many of her creations in his monthly publications. Proctor also wrote The Lost Chord (inspiring, though not strictly a hymn) and My God I Thank Thee Who Hast Made.

We have various words for the time between sunset and nightfall: evening, dusk, twilight, and gloaming are a few. The word “evening” comes from the ancient word aefen meaning late (i.e. late in the day.). It’s come to refer broadly to the period between sunset and when we go to bed.

That in-between time is spent in a variety of ways. Usually, it’s been thought of as the end of the workday. “Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening,” says the psalmist (Ps. 104:23). But that was before electric lighting and other developments. Now there is shift work ’round the clock, or sometimes a second job to go to, for economic reasons.

Apparently more than a third of the population has some kind of paid employment in the evenings. Still, for many, this is family time, or television time, or an opportunity to take care of household chores or, for those in school, a time to do homework.

But let’s take a few moments to consider some of the activities of the Lord Jesus in the evening hours. After one busy Sabbath day, Jesus and His disciples went to Peter’s home for supper. But then we read, “At evening, when the sun had set [and the Sabbath was officially over], they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed….Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk. 1:32, 34).

The evening was also used as a time for personal reflection and prayer (cf. Ps. 141:2). On one occasion a multitude of the Jews tried to “take [Jesus] by force and make Him king” (Jn. 6:15), it was clear they understood neither the plan of God or His timing. And “when He [Christ] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23).

The evening before His arrest the Lord celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples and engaged in an extensive time of instruction described by John (Jn. 13–17). This was followed by His time of prayer in Gethsemane. For Jesus, then, the evening hours were a time for ministry, for personal prayer, and for the teaching and encouragement of those who believed on Him.

There were also meetings of Christ with His followers on the evening of His resurrection. He met two of them on the road to the town of Emmaus, walking and talking with them. And when the couple reached home, “They constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them [briefly]” (Lk. 24:29).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn. 20:19).

The beautiful hymn by poet Adelaide Procter speaks of the evening as a time for meditation and prayer.

CH-1) The shadows of the evening hours
Fall from the darkening sky;
Upon the fragrance of the flowers
The dews of evening lie;
Before Thy throne, O Lord of heav’n,
We kneel at close of day;
Look on Thy children from on high,
And hear us while we pray.

One stanza (CH-3) not included in every hymn book may speak of a personal sorrow of the author. We know that although Miss Procter was engaged at one point, she never married. And the following words seem to speak of turning away from earthly disappointments to consider the eternal blessings up ahead.

CH-3) Slowly the rays of daylight fade,
So fade within our heart
The hopes in earthly love and joy,
That one by one depart.
Slowly the bright stars, one by one,
Within the heavens shine:
Give us, O Lord, fresh hopes in heaven
And trust in things divine.

CH-4) Let peace, O Lord, Thy peace,
O God, upon our souls descend;
From midnight fears and perils, now
Our trembling hearts defend.
Give us a respite from our toil;
Calm and subdue our woes.
Through the long day we labour, Lord,
O give us now repose.

Questions:
1) What is your usual occupation most evenings?

2) Do you prefer to have your daily devotions in the morning or the evening? (Why?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 4, 2017

Saviour, Teach Me Day by Day

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Jane Elizabeth Leeson (b. Dec. ___, 1808; d. Nov. 18, 1881)
Music: Posen, by Georg Christoph Strattner (b. _____, 1644; d. Apr. 11, 1704)

Links:
Wordwise Hymn (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: We know little about Jane Leeson except that she wrote many hymns, mostly for children. Apparently she belonged to an eccentric sect of the time called the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church. Its leaders, twelve in number, called themselves apostles. (The sect died out shortly after the death of the last of its self-designated apostles.) They taught the revival of the apostolic gift of prophecy, and Miss Leeson herself believed some of her hymns were prophetic utterances. One observer described the coming of a hymn by claimed prophetic revelation, in process, as follows:

“[The hymn] was delivered slowly, and with short pauses between the verses, a pause three times as long as anyone would ordinarily make in reading.”

There have been many great love stories in history, and many inspiring ones described in fiction as well. Times when earnest and devoted love is answered by the equally passionate devotion of another, love echoing love.

Napoleon and Josephine, the poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Queen Victoria and her Albert, scientists Pierre and Marie Curie, those are just a few examples. And we could include the biblical account of Jacob’s love for Rachel. He worked for his Uncle Laban to gain the right to take her as his bride, and the Bible says, “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20).

But by infinite measure the greatest love story enfolding both time and eternity is God’s love for us fallen sinners, creatures of His own making. The best known gospel text in all the Bible says it. “God so loved the world” of lost mankind that He sent His own Son to pay our debt of sin on the cross (Jn. 3:16).

We all are described in God’s Word as sinners (Rom. 3:23; 5:8), and enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), but the Lord loved us in spite of this. And before the world began, He planned that salvation would be provided for, even knowing the terrible sacrifice that would be necessary. By faith, we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ…foreordained before the foundation of the world” (I Pet. 1:18-20; cf. Rev. 13:8).

Concerning the believer’s response to all this, we have a notable text in the first epistle of John: “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). There are profound depths in that simple statement.

First, we are transformed through what God does for us, so that we are empowered to love God back, and love others too, with a divinely energized love. Through faith in Christ, we are able to love in a new way and to a new degree “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Further, we are given a new motivation to love. This is particularly so with respect to our response to our loving God Himself. Through Calvary, we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17), and love answers love. Not surprisingly, our hymn writers have taken up this theme.

At the time of his conversion, sixteen-year-old William Ralph Featherstone (1846-1873), of Montreal, gave us the hymn My Jesus, I Love Thee. One stanza says:

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Another hymn makes the message of First John 4:19 a kind of refrain at the end of every stanza. It was written by English author Jane Leeson. And even though we might disagree with some of her group’s teachings, Miss Leeson’s simple hymn has merit.

CH-1) Saviour, teach me day by day
Love’s sweet lesson to obey,
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him who first loved me.

CH-3) Teach me thus Thy steps to trace,
Strong to follow in Thy grace,
Learning how to love from Thee,
Loving Him who first loved me.

CH-4) Love in loving finds employ,
In obedience all her joy;
Ever new that joy will be,
Loving Him who first loved me.

Questions:
1) What are some things we learn about love from the Lord Jesus?

2) What can we give to the Saviour to show how much we love Him?

Links:
Wordwise Hymn (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 2, 2017

Join All the Glorious Names

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Darwall (or, Darwall’s 148th) by John Darwall (b. Jan 13, 1731; d. Dec. 18, 1789)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Isaac Watts is justly called the Father of English Hymnody. In his day, many churches were singing only the Psalms of the Bible. But he argued that missed a lot of important New Testament truth. To meet what he saw as a significant need, Watts wrote about six hundred hymns, many of which are still in use. It’s common for hymnals to include fifteen to eighteen of his songs.

Darwall was a clergyman and amateur musician. Though he wrote many tunes, only this tune for Psalm 148 is in common use today.

A name is how we identify something or someone. The name represents the thing or the person, in print, or in speech–and in our thoughts, as well. Whether it’s a brick or a book, a rock or a river, those words bring something specific to mind.

Personal names can have significance either because of their actual meaning, or due to their association. For example, the name David means beloved, the name Robert means bright or shining, and parents could choose names such as these for what they mean. They might also choose to name their baby William or something else because that was Grandpa’s name, or the name of a close friend.

As to the shortest personal name, there are a few one-letter names. President Harry S Truman was given “S” as a middle name to honour a couple of grandfathers. The letter doesn’t otherwise stand for anything longer. The longest name officially recognized is that of a twentieth century resident of Philadelphia, Hubert Blaine Wolfe+590, Senior, with the 590 standing for the remaining letters in his last name.

In the Bible, some form of the word “name” is used over a thousand times, with the phrase “the name of the Lord” found 107 times. Most often the King James Version capitalizes “LORD” to represent the name Jehovah (sometimes written as Yaweh), speaking of the self-existing One. When “Lord,” the lower case form is used, it translates the Hebrew Adonai or the Greek Kurios, both indicating one who rules, a master.

The Bible Encyclopedia lists 947 names for God that are found in the Bible. The Almighty’s names and titles are His revelation of Himself, of His nature and character. Each name is like one facet in a precious jewel, reflecting something of His person. The late theologian Charles Ryrie said, “In a sense, then, God’s ‘name’ is equal to all that the Bible and creation tell us about God.”

Compound names, such as “the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20) gather several qualities or characteristics together. In the Old Testament, there are many compound names of God. In Exodus 15:26, He calls Himself (in Hebrew) Jehovah Rapha, “the LORD who heals.” Jehovah Tsidkenu means “the LORD our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6); Jehovah Jireh means “the LORD will provide” (Gen. 22:14); and Jehovah Sabaoth, found over two hundred times, is most often translated “the Lord of Hosts,” referring to the hosts of holy angels at God’s command, His angelic army (e.g. I Sam. 1:3).

Each name of the Lord helps to deepen our understanding of who He is, and each gives us a new motivation to worship and praise Him, as well as to trust and obey Him. “Praise and exalt the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted and supreme! His glory and majesty are above earth and heaven!” (Ps. 148:13, Amplified Version).

It was to celebrate many of the names of God in 1709, that hymn writer Isaac Watts gave the church Join All the Glorious Names. It focuses on the Lord Jesus, reminding us that even His many names and titles aren’t sufficient to express all that He is, and all He has done for us.

Note: A couple of changes have been made in the original hymn. In Stanza 1, the double use of “too mean” has been changed to “too poor.” (“Mean” to Watts likely meant humble, common, impoverished.) And in Stanza 10, the opening line was originally “My dear almighty Lord.” This is often changed to “My Saviour and my Lord.”

CH-1) Join all the glorious names
Of wisdom, love, and power,
That ever mortals knew,
That angels ever bore:
All are too poor to speak His worth,
Too poor to set my Saviour forth.

CH-8) Jesus, my great High Priest,
Offered His blood, and died;
My guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice beside:
His powerful blood did once atone,
And now it pleads before the throne.

CH-10) My Saviour and my Lord,
My Conqueror and my King,
Thy scepter and Thy sword,
Thy reigning grace I sing:
Thine is the power; behold I sit
In willing bonds beneath Thy feet.

Questions:
1) What is the name or title for the Lord that most often blesses you?

2) Is there a hymn that includes (or especially focuses on) the name you gave in the answer above?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 29, 2017

O Still in Accents Sweet

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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.

Questions:
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?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 27, 2017

Day by Day the Manna Fell

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Josiah Conder (b. Sept. 17, 1789; d. Dec. 27, 1855)
Music: Munus, by John Baptiste Calkin (b. Mar. 16, 1827; d. May 15, 1905)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Josiah Conder, as a child, was one of the early recipients of a smallpox inoculation. But something went wrong, and from the subsequent infection he lost the sight of one eye. Nevertheless, in adulthood he became a newspaper editor and wrote books on a variety of subjects, including six volumes of poetry and hymns. Few of his hymns are known today, but many were sung through the nineteenth century.

There are some things we can store up for future use. We do that with money deposited in the bank. We do it with food kept in a fridge or freezer. But there are other necessary things that cannot be stored long. The air we breathe is a prime example.

When diving into a pool or a lake, we take a deep breath and are able to stay under the water for thirty seconds or a little more. But we cannot take enough breaths today to provide all the air we need for tomorrow. If we breathe about sixteen times per minute, that will mean more than 23,000 breaths for today–and we’ll need another 23,000 tomorrow.

In the Bible there’s an example of daily supply that is quite instructive. When the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, they traveled into a wilderness area which lacked enough food to feed them all. To meet the need, the Lord provided manna. He said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day” (Exod. 16:4).

The next day, “when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground….And Moses said to them, ‘This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat’” (Exod. 16:14-15). Attempts to identify this as some naturally occurring substance have failed. There were supernatural aspects of heaven’s food which preclude that.

The manna fell every day of the week but the Sabbath (Saturday), and fed Israel for about forty years–so it must have been nutritious. They gathered it, baked it, boiled it, and formed it into cakes (Num. 11:8), so it seems to have served as a kind of flour. Then, as soon as the people were in Canaan, the land God had promised them, and were able to eat the fruit of the land there, the provision of manna abruptly ceased (Josh. 5:12).

Why did Lord do it as He did, providing a day by day gift of food? Why not supply a week’s worth, or a month’s worth at a time? It was to remind the people to continue looking to Him in faith, and continue obeying His word (Deut. 8:2-3). And the thought of a daily provision for Israel in the wilderness carries over into the New Testament, becoming a request in the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day [or, day by day] our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). We’re to look to the Lord to meet our daily needs.

This is equally true in the spiritual realm. Daily grace for daily needs. Of times of persecution, Paul writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair….Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:8, 16).

Josiah Conder wrote a hymn about how the Lord is able to meet our needs day by day. Here is part of his hymn:

CH-1) Day by day the manna fell;
O to learn this lesson well!
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give me Lord, my daily bread.

CH-2) “Day by day,” the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs;
Cast foreboding fears away;
Take the manna of today.

CH-5) Fond ambition, whisper not;
Happy is my humble lot.
Anxious, busy cares away;
I’m provided for today.

CH-6) Oh, to live exempt from care
By the energy of prayer:
Strong in faith, with mind subdued,
Yet elate with gratitude!

Questions:
1) What personal need do you pray for on a regular basis?

2) How did the Lord provide what was needed yesterday (or over the past week)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 25, 2017

Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Cennick) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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!

Questions:
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?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Cennick) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 22, 2017

O Lord, How Full of Sweet Content

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mothe Guyon (b. Apr. 16, 1648; d. June 9, 1717); English translation, William Cowper (b. Nov. 15, 1731; d. Apr. 25, 1800)
Music: Hamburg, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Madame Guyon, was a Roman Catholic mystic who taught the philosophy of Quietism. Quietism proposes that the indwelling Holy Spirit is able to impart added truth beyond the Bible. But most orthodox Christians reject the possibility of divinely inspired truth beyond the Scriptures (Rev. 22:18). Rather, they believe the work of the Spirit of God is to illuminate the Word of God and give us an understanding of what He has already revealed (Jn. 14:26).

Guyon was often condemned and ostracized for her views, even by the church she espoused, and she spent time in prison. But hymn writer William Cowper thought enough of the present hymn to translate it into English. Hamburg is a tune often used with When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

The air we breathe is pretty much available to us everywhere on the planet–though the quality of that air isn’t always the best. Especially in our major cities, and near various industrial facilities, the smog can be suffocating.

Earth’s atmosphere is about three hundred miles thick (480 kms), but most of it is concentrated in the ten miles immediately above the ground, and not even all of that is habitable by human beings. Altitude sickness, and serious health problems can develop beyond about one and a half miles (1 km) above sea level. This is why mountain climbers must supplement their oxygen at extreme heights.

However, it’s possible to adapt, over time, to living and working even higher. There is a gold mine and a settlement housing thousands of workers about three miles (4.8 kms) up in the Peruvian Andes. That’s the highest inhabited location on earth, a forbidding place of barren rock and bitter cold, but they have air enough to live.

If the air we breathe is virtually present everywhere, God is even more so. Theologians have a word for it, calling it God’s omnipresence. And whereas the atmosphere is simply diffused across the surface of the earth, so that part of it is here, and part of it is there, the Lord is unique in being fully present everywhere. All of God is where I am, and equally all of God is where you are.

“‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord” (Jer. 23:24).

“Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool” (Isa. 66:1).

And when Jacob dreamed a strange dream about the presence of God and holy angels, he was filled with the wonder of it and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).

There is a warning in this for those who would do evil. God sees and knows all that we do. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” asks David. “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol [the grave], behold, You are there” (Ps. 139:7-8, NASB).

But the nearness of God can bring assurance to those who love and serve Him. To them the Lord says, “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper’” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Our differences with Madame Guyon’s beliefs being recognized, her hymn, My Lord, How Full of Sweet Content (or O Lord, How Full of Sweet Content), touches on a area of truth for which we find full biblical support–that the presence of God is a reality in the believer’s life, wherever we go. Though we may part from friends and family, we have the Lord’s promise, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

CH-1) My Lord, how full of sweet content;
I pass my years of banishment!
Where’er I dwell, I dwell with Thee,
In heaven, in earth, or on the sea.

CH-2) To me remains nor place nor time;
My country is in every clime;
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.

CH-4) Could I be cast where Thou are not,
That were indeed a dreadful lot:
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all.

Questions:
1) When is the last time, in a trying situation, you were particularly aware of the presence of God?

2) How does an awareness of the presence of God change your attitudes and actions?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 20, 2017

Commit Thou All Thy Griefs

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1676); English translation by John Wesley (b. June 28, 1703; d. Mar. 2, 1791)
Music: St. George (or Gauntlett), by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; d. Feb. 21, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Paul Gerhardt was a Lutheran pastor, about a century after the time of the Reformation. The motto on his portrait read “Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus” (a theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve–cf. Lk. 22:31-32).

It’s sometimes called a bedside manner. Doctor’s either have it, or they don’t. They may know all the relevant medical facts, but still lack the skill of communicating them to the patient, or of bringing reassurance and hope. Lacking this gift, they may even give the impression that the ailing person’s anxious questions are an imposition on their time.

Not all are like that, of course. Dr. Robert Kemp (our family doctor) practiced in Ontario about six decades ago–at a time when doctors still made house calls. And, when a couple we knew lost a son to illness, the good doctor went to their home, threw his arms around them both, and wept with them. That man knew how to treat the soul as well as the body. I believe a wing of a city hospital was eventually named after him.

The Bible has a great deal to say about comfort, and being a comforter. The Greek words translated into English often describe one who comes alongside a troubled individual for the purpose of bringing consolation, encouragement, and a renewed serenity of mind.

God is the ultimate Source of true comfort.

“[He is] the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:3-4).

The Spirit of God comforts the people of God (Acts 9:31), often through the healing message of God’s Word (Rom. 15:4). As indicated, He also works through other people to do that (II Cor. 7:6). Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers, “We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (I Thess. 2:11), in turn urging them to “comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (I Thess. 5:14).

Not only can we do this directly, but through our earnest prayers for those in distress. The apostle did that. He prayed, “Our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [comfort] and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16-17).

Our hymn writers also play a roll in the comforting of the saints, as they frame the thoughts and words of Scripture into lines of memorable verse. Read the inspiring words of Katharina von Schlegel’s Be Still My Soul, or the stirring beauty of Thomas Moore’s Come, Ye Disconsolate, or Joseph Scriven’s What a Friend We Have in Jesus, or the present hymn, Commit Thou All Thy Griefs, by Paul Gerhardt.

In the eighteenth century, Gerhardt’s hymn figured in a remarkable incident. A godly peasant named Dobyr lived in a little village near Warsaw, Poland. Being a poor man, he’d fallen way behind in paying the rent for his house, and his landlord said he and his family would be evicted the next day, turned out into the snow.

In deep concern, he led the family in prayer, and they sang Paul Gerhardt’s hymn together.

CH-1) Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into His hands,
To His sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.

CH-4) No profit canst thou gain
By self consuming care;
To Him commend thy cause, His ear
Attends the softest prayer.

At this point there was a sharp rapping at the window, near where Dobyr knelt. A bird was pecking at it. Opening the window he found the pet raven which his grandfather had tamed, and then set free. In its beak was a ring, set with precious stones.

After a search, with the help of Dobyr’s pastor, it was discovered that the ring belonged to King Stanislaus, who sent for the peasant and gave him a reward for returning the ring. Not only that, the king had a new house built for Dobyr and his family, filling its cattle sheds from his own estates.

As a witness to all these wonderful blessings, over the door of his new home, Dobyr put up an iron plaque. It pictured a raven, with a ring in its beak, and quoted the final words of Gerhardt’s hymn:

CH-7) When Thou arisest, Lord,
What shall Thy work withstand?
When all Thy children want*, Thou giv’st;
And who shall stay Thy hand?

*”Want,” not in the sense of what we wish for or crave, but referring to times when we are in want (in need). This is the sense of the word in the first verse of Psalm 23, “I shall not want.”

Questions:
1) In your own experience, how has the Lord answered prayer in a time of need?

2) In what situation has someone been a special comforter to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 18, 2017

What If It Were Today?

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Lelia Naylor Morris (b. Apr. 15, 1862; d. July 23, 1929)
Music: Lelia Naylor Morris

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Lelia Naylor married Charles Morris in 1881. She began writing sacred songs in the 1890’s, and kept it up, even after her eyesight began to fail in 1913. Her daughter set up a blackboard twenty-eight feet long, with a huge music staff on it, which her mother used to write, until she went completely blind. Lelia Morris wrote more than a thousand songs–most of them after she began suffering from a loss of her sight.

To “suppose” can mean to consider a possibility, using our imagination to answer a “What if…?” question.

The movies do it all the time to create situations that grab our attention. Films such as Fail-Safe (1964), or WarGames (1983) ask us to ponder a chilling possibility: Suppose America started a nuclear war with Russia accidentally. What then?

Christ’s parables use that technique as well. For example, suppose a farmer sows some seed (Mk. 4:3-20). What kind of yield can he expect? Answer: It depends to a significant extent on whether the seed lands on good and well prepared soil or not. And the parable applies factor this to our need of hearts ready to receive God’s Word.

The use of imagination in this way can have a practical value nearer home. Just suppose a hurricane were to sweep through town. Are we prepared? Have we identified a safe place to go in the event it happens? Or suppose thieves attempt to break into our house. Do we have sufficient security protection?

Posing a supposition can help us to adjust our values. On a personal (and more mundane) note, our son and his family live in Mexico City, where he and his wife serve as missionaries. They’re able to visit us only occasionally, every few years. One time a visit was expected in a couple of months time, and my wife began to worry about all she had to get done to prepare. But I asked, “Suppose they were to surprise us and arrive today? Would you turn them away because the house isn’t tidy or dusted?” And the answer was, of course not. Other things were far less important than welcoming them.

The same principle applies to the return of Christ, but for that event readiness is vitally important. The Bible repeatedly tells us He’s coming back again. Suppose it were to happen today? Are we ready for it? “Be ready,” Jesus warns, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). Are we sure of our soul’s salvation? And would the things we’ve planned to do please Him?

First, readiness involves trusting Christ for our eternal salvation (Jn. 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Beyond that it relates to inward character, and priorities, and outward conduct. Are we living in obedience to His Word? Are we honouring and serving Him with our lives?

“Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-13).

“Therefore, since all these things [the things of this material world] will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (II Pet. 3:11).

“We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn. 3:2-3).

In 1912, hymn writer Lelia Morris published a song on this theme. What If It Were Today? poses a supposition for us all to think about.

CH-1) Jesus is coming to earth again;
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign;
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide;
What if it were today?

Glory, glory! Joy to my heart ’twill bring.
Glory, glory! When we shall crown Him king.
Glory, glory! Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory! Jesus will come some day.

CH-3) Faithful and true would He find us here,
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today?
Signs of His coming multiply;
Morning light breaks in eastern sky.
Watch, for the time is drawing nigh;
What if it were today?

It’s a question worth considering.

Questions:
1) Are you ready for Christ’s return?

2) What are your plans in the meantime?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 15, 2017

O Master, at Thy Feet

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: (seen Note, below)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal)
The Cyber Hymnal (Frances Havergal)
Hymnary.org (none)

Note: A child prodigy, Havergal was reading by age four, and began writing verse at age seven. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew–eventually was fluent in six or seven modern languages too, and memorized Psalms, the book of Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. She also wrote some of our finest hymns.

Miss Havergal said “Master” was her favourite title for Christ, because it implied rule and submission. “Men,” she said, “may feel differently, but a true woman’s submission is inseparable from deep love.” (That is definitely worthy of further thought!)

The present hymn is rarely found it print. It’s unique metre (6.6.8.6.10.12) is unusual and equally rare. One site suggests Rabboni (by Samuel Reay 1822-1905), or Inglewhite (by Ann Sheppard Mounsey Bartholomew, 1811-1891) as tunes that could be used, but neither seems to be currently available. If you have a gift for composing music, go to the Cyber Hymnal’s Tunes Needed page and submit a possibility for this one.

We have a number of expressions that describe times when, perhaps out of fear or surprise, or some other strong emotion, we’re so overwhelmed we’re can’t think of anything to say. We say we’re speechless, at a loss for words, we’re struck dumb, or words fail us. Often, when we regain our senses later, we think of all the things we could have said, or wish we’d said.

I recall a time, on a Toronto street, when heavyweight boxing champion George Chevalo walked by me. I wanted to say, “Hi champ!” but was so stunned I couldn’t get the words out. Celebrity can silence us. So can romance. Guy meets girl, or vice versa, and suddenly it’s, “Hi…uh…um…so….” Even retrieving one’s own name at the moment may seem impossible.

Being confronted by a wild animal can have a similar affect. Few could do what a friend of mine did. A senior citizen, she was sitting outside her cabin, shelling peas, when an adult bear lumbered around the corner. Getting up, and making a dismissive motion with her hands, she said sternly, “Shoo! You’re not wanted around here! Go ‘way!” And the bear did!

In Scripture, when the people of Israel noisily worshiped false gods, the prophet Habakkuk rebuked them, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! it shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all.” He called them instead to stand mute before the true God: “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:19-20).

To stand before the Lord, realizing His glory and sovereign power, silences feeble comment. Even the Apostle John, as a believer, when he saw a vision of the glorified Christ, “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Truly, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). A time when words are inappropriate, inadequate, or simply unnecessary.

On New Year’s Eve in 1866, as darkness fell, a young woman sat alone in a little room. There was no fire in the grate, not even a carpet on the floor. If the evening chill was creeping into her bones, she seemed to take no notice of it. She was full of love for Christ, overwhelmed by the wonder of knowing him and serving him. She wanted to write some lines of praise, but found it difficult to say how she felt.

The would-be writer was Frances Havergal. To say that on the occasion described she was utterly without words would not be accurate. But she felt that any words she could muster would be wholly inadequate to express how she felt. What did come from her pen was a little known hymn, O Master, at Thy Feet. It says, in part:

3) I have no words to bring
Worthy of Thee, my King,
And yet one anthem in Thy praise
I long, I long to raise;
The heart is full, the eye entranced above,
But words all melt away to silent awe and love.

4) How can the lip be dumb,
The hand all still and numb,
When Thee the heart doth see and own
Her Lord and God above?
Tune for Thyself the music of my days,
And open Thou my lips that I may show Thy praise.

5) Yea, let my whole life be
One anthem unto Thee,
And let the praise of lip and life
Outring all sin and strife.
O Jesus, Master! Be Thy name supreme,
For heaven and earth the one, the grand, eternal theme.

Questions:
1) Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed in prayer (for whatever reason) that it’s difficult to find the right words to express yourself?

2) Do you find yourself doing the opposite sometimes, rattling off trite phrases that seem to have lost much of their meaning? (What can be done about this?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal)
The Cyber Hymnal (Frances Havergal)
Hymnary.org (none)

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