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Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

By Charles Wesley 1740

Here is a link to a recording of this hymn: http://youtu.be/bjgPTZn4nSY

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Cheer my eyes and warm my heart.

3 Visit then this soul of mine;
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley wrote nearly 9000 poems in his life time, with over 6000 of them suitable for use as a hymn. This particular hymn is a great example of his writing, illustrating the theological depth and understanding present in his other works. Within these three short stanzas, there are over 20 direct scripture references.

From the first line, Wesley begins to paint an image of the salvific work of Christ. While it would not be unusual to say that: God’s glory fills the sky, it is a new and bold statement to say that Christ’s glory fills the sky. This Christ, this Jesus, is the true and only light. Carrying on with the theme of light, he makes another unexpected point; instead of using the usual “Son of Righteousness” he uses “Sun of Righteousness”. This comes from Malachi 4:2:  (2But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.) “Day-spring” and “Day-star” also come from scriptural references ranging from Revelations 22:16, Luke 1:78 and Isiah 14:12.

The second stanza describes the life without Christ’s light. Without the Morning Light, the day is joyless. Not until the inward light of Christ is present is our heart warmed. Without the presences of the Christ, life is dark and meaningless.

The gloom of sin and grief is only cast away with the presence of the light of Christ. This light scatters our unbelief and fills us with joy for that perfect day. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

May the Light of Christ which drives out the darkness of sin and despair fill you with the peace which is beyond understanding.

 




It is Well with My Soul

Horatio Spafford

Music by Philip Bliss

Tune: Ville du Havre

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/tPR-vSCRNlE

1)When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul.

2) Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

(Refrain)

3) My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

(Refrain)

4) For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pain shall be mine,

for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper

Thy peace to my soul.

(Refrain)

5) And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain)

After the great fire of 1871, in my beloved home of Chicago, which destroyed nearly everything I owned, I spent my days helping those whose loses were even greater. I worked with my dear friend D.L. Moody to do whatever we could to help our neighbors. Out of this, I began to feel His calling to know Him ever more and to pursue a different path for my life.

A couple of years after the Great Fire, my beloved wife, Anna and our four young daughters set sail to Europe for an extended vacation and to visit Mr. Moody as he preached throughout England. At the last minute I was detained on business and would have to follow them later. While in New York, booking them on their passage, I felt a need to change their cabins from mid-ship to the bow. I am not sure why I did this, I just felt it had to be done.

Oh what tragedy! My heart is broken into pieces! Why, oh God, did you take my children from me?

Just days after leaving my arms, my precious children passed into His arms as the Ville du Havre sank to the ocean’s bottom, rammed mid-ships by another vessel. Only my beloved Anna survived.

After receiving Anna’s telegram which read: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” I set out immediately to bring my beloved and heartbroken Anna home. One day, during the crossing, the captain calls me to the bridge. He shows me on his chart where we are and tells me it is here that Annie, Margret Lee, Elizabeth, and my infant Tanetta went home to be with Jesus.

Upon returning to my cabin I pour out my anguish and my continued dependence upon my Savior. Despite my utterly broken heart, I know that peace, which flows through my life, comes from the blood of Christ which was shed for me. No matter the hardships or trials which Satan may throw my way, I can rest in the comfort of my Savior.

Andrew Remillard from the perspective of Horatio Spafford

(A few years later Horatio, Anna, and their two young daughter born after the tragedy, Bertha, and Grace move to Jerusalem. They established the American Colony and dedicated the remainder of their lives to the care of the poor and needy without regard to faith or status. Horatio died of malaria in 1888 and was buried at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem. Anna continued their labors in Jerusalem until her death in 1923. Their daughter Bertha also lived her entire life in Jerusalem.)



Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended (1630)

by Johann Heermann 1585-1647 tr. Robert Bridges 1844-1930

Traditional tune: Herziebster Jesu (1640)

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/RkI838hBO9M

1.      Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,

that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?

By foes derided, by thine own rejected,

O most afflicted!

2.      Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?

Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!

‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;

I crucified thee.

3.      Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;

the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.

For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,

God interceded.

4.      For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,

thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;

thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,

for my salvation.

5.      Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,

I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,

think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,

not my deserving.

Isaiah 53 3-7

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

(A number of Lutheran hymnals use a translation written in 1863 by Catherine Winkworth which begins “O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken?”[)

 Johann Heerman was born in Raudten (modern day Rudna) in Silesia which is wedged between modern Poland and the Czech Republic. He was the fourth son of a middle-class Protestant family; none of his elder siblings survived beyond their childhood. As a thirteen year old child he was sent to a nearby town to further his education. His health proved too fragile and he had to frequently interrupt his learning to return home to recover.

During his early 20’s his patron (for whom he was tutoring his children) took him on a tour of Europe and Heerman was able to spend time studying in many capitals of Europe. He eventually settled in Chobienia, Poland and began work at the Lutheran congregation in a role we would call the assistant pastor today. The senior pastor was in poor health and died days after he began his duties. That Fall in 1611 he married Dorothea Feige, the daughter of the mayor of Raudten.

However, life in the 1600’s was generally short and brutish. By 1613 the Plague was ravaging the area, in 1616 a fire nearly destroyed the entire town and Johan’s wife died childless in 1617. He remarried the next year and eventually he had four children we know of. A few years later Johan once again fell ill and never recovered his health, though he lived another 25 years. By the 1630’s his community fell victim to the 30 Year War and was plundered by Catholic armies repeated over the next decade.  Survival was tenuous at best, by the 1630’s his health was so poor he was unable to work.

Despite all of the hardship Johan Heermann endured throughout his life this poem shows he still understood his dependence upon God for salvation and his gratitude for the underserved mercies of his salvation.

The first two stanzas ask a questions which are answered in their final verse.  Jesus, what did you do to deserve this? Who brought this upon you? The answer is: O most afflicted, I crucified thee. But God interceded for my salvation, which I did not deserve.



Savior, When in Dust to Thee  by Robert Grant, 1779-1838

A recording is available here:  http://youtu.be/3RIypqGC6x4

  1. Savior, when in dust to Thee
    Low we bow the adoring knee,
    When, repentant, to the skies
    Scarce we lift our weeping eyes,
    Oh, by all Thy pains and woe
    Suffered once for man below,
    Bending from Thy throne on high,
    Hear our solemn litany!

  2. By Thy helpless infant years,
    By Thy life of want and tears,
    By Thy days of sore distress
    In the savage wilderness,
    By the dread, mysterious hour Of the insulting Tempter’s power,
    Turn, O turn, a favoring eye,
    Hear our solemn litany!

3.By Thine hour of dire despair,
By Thine agony of prayer, By the cross, the nail, the thorn,
Piercing spear, and torturing scorn,
By the gloom that veiled the skies
O’er the dreadful sacrifice,
Listen to our humble cry,
Hear our solemn litany!

  1. By Thy deep expiring groan,
    By the sad sepulchral stone,
    By the vault whose dark abode
    Held in vain the rising God,
    Oh, from earth to heaven restored,
    Mighty, reascended Lord,
    Listen, listen, to the cry
    Of our solemn litany!

Luke 18:13

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Two men went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a despised tax collector. One boasted of his righteousness to the righteous one, the other knew his sine and unworthiness before God. We acknowledge our utter dependence God as we bow down into the dust. Acknowledgment of our sins brings with it the knowledge of our guilt before God. How can we even lift our eyes to the cross, knowing ourselves as we do? Yet, God reached down from his throne to hear our prayers.

From Christ’s birth, through his sore temptation in the desert by Satan himself to that faithful day on the cross, through nails, thorns, and spear, God listens to our humble cry.

John 19:30

 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said: “It is finished,”  and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

With a deep groan, heard for millennium to come: “IT IS FINISHED”. We are redeemed from the grave. The grave will wait in vain for he is risen! He has heard our solemn litany!

 


by Isaac Watts, (1674-1748)

Usually sung to the tune “Martydom” by Hugh Wilson (1764-1824)

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/pOwkhlqehgw

  1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed,

and did my Sovereign die!

Would he devote that sacred head

for sinners such as I?

  1. Was it for crimes that I have done,

he groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity! Grace unknown!

And love beyond degree!

  1. Well might the sun in darkness hide,

and shut its glories in,

when God, the mighty maker, died

for his own creature’s sin.

  1. Thus might I hide my blushing face

while his dear cross appears;

dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

and melt mine eyes to tears.

  1. But drops of tears can ne’er repay

the debt of love I owe.

Here, Lord, I give myself away;

’tis all that I can do.

Isaac Watts was one of the most prolific English hymn writers with over 750 hymns to his credit and many are still used today. Watts was raised in what was known at the time as a “non-conformist” home. The life threatening aspects of the reformation had largely passed by Watts’ lifetime, however, there was still a considerable amount of social ostracization towards those who did not conform to the official religious prescripts as ordained by the Anglican Church. His father, also named Isaac Watts was incarcerated twice, including the time of Isaac’s birth. Watts attended the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington beginning in 1690 for his university training instead of Oxford or Cambridge. The later would have put him under the authority of the Church of England.

Watts was a brilliant linguist learning Latin at 4, Greek at 9, French at 11, and Hebrew at 13. In his mid-twenties he became the pastor at Mark Lane Independent Church in London. He began to suffer from several periods of illness, which over time led him to relinquish his duties. However, he continued to write hymns, several books about history and faith, and even an introductory book on logic which went to 20 editions. He was a small man with an over sized head and has been described by his contemporaries as “ugly”. His one known marriage proposal was rejected.

One of the more controversial aspects of Watts hymns was his rewriting of the psalms to reflect how he imagined David would have written them if he had lived in 17th century London. Watts wanted to imbue his texts with an immediacy and expressiveness not available in the stilted, unrhymed, unmetered Psalms.

Within the very first stanza of Alas! and Did my Savior Bleed we see the clarity of Watts’ anguish. His Savior had bled and died for such a horrible sinner as himself. Was it his very own sins which put him on the cross? The amazing grace and love, beyond degree which led to such a sacrifice that even the sun hid its face when the Maker died for the Made’s sin. How shameful, I too must hide my face when I see the cross as my heart breaks in thankfulness and I cry tears of grief. But even these tears cannot begin to repay my debt of love so all I can do is: give myself away.

The penitent heart can do nothing else.



Romans 8:26 (KJV revised by ANR)

Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Music is the closest we can come to the groanings of Holy Spirit.

“Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow”
by Bernhardt S. Ingemann, 1789-1862
Translated by Sabine BaringGould, 1834-1924

  1. Through the night of doubt and sorrow
    Onward goes the pilgrim band,
    Singing songs of expectation,
    Marching to the Promised Land.
    Clear before us, through the darkness,
    Gleams and burns the guiding light.
    Brother clasps the hand of brother,
    Stepping fearless through the night.

  2. One the light of God’s own presence,
    O’er His ransomed people shed,
    Chasing far the gloom and terror,
    Brightening all the path we tread;
    One the object of our journey,
    One the faith which never tires.
    One the earnest looking forward,
    One the hope our God inspires.

  3. One the strain the lips of thousands
    Lift as from the heart of one;
    One the conflict, one the peril,
    One their march in God begun;
    One the gladness of rejoicing
    On the far eternal shore,
    Where the one almighty Father
    Reigns in love forevermore.

  4. Onward, therefore, pilgrim brothers!
    Onward, with the cross our aid!
    Bear its shame and fight its battle
    Till we rest beneath its shade.
    Soon shall come the great awaking,
    Soon the rending of the tomb,
    Then the scattering of all shadows,
    And the end of toil and gloom.

Commonly sung to the tune: Ebenezer (remember last month’s article?).

There is but one reason to sing and that is to worship and there are three primary types of songs we sing. We sing to praise, we sing to proclaim, and we sing to pray. This is a hymn of proclamation usually sung during Lent.

The most important part of a hymn, (it is the very definition of a hymn) is the text. The most important aspect to the text is that it faithfully declares the Glory of God. Every aspect of the text must speak to the Biblical truth clearly, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a song for some other purpose. I have heard some songs in church where any reference to God was purely inferred and these songs could just have easily been about some lost lover.

This hymn of proclamation describes the pilgrim’s journey which begins in darkness surrounded by doubt and sorrow. In the second stanza we find a great example of how hymns can teach and reinforce Biblical truths. The idea of God ransoming his people starts early in the Old Testament and finds its culmination at the foot of the cross. The fourth stanza makes a clear statement of the importance of cross and the empty tomb.

One of the most radical transformations which the reformers Luther, Knox, and Calvin wrought was the incorporation of congregational singing. At the time of the reformation worship was done in Latin, a language which had effectively been dead for nearly 1000 years, which all but the most educated had no understanding. The music was performed by professional musicians and choirs. The congregation simply stood there for hours and watched the actions of others.

Moving worship to the vernacular and even letting the congregation sing spiritual poems set to simple tunes was such a profound change we have difficulty understanding it today. The fathers of the reformation and many since have left us thousands of hymns of praise, proclamation, and prayer.

Every Sunday your pastoral and musical staff endeavor to bring music which clearly and unabashedly proclaims God’s truth.

I would challenge you to read the text of each hymn and song we sing and consider the Biblical truths present and even more importantly, dialogue with the text. Consider the implication for your life in the truths proclaimed.



Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers (Llangloffan)

Text by: Laurentius Laurenti 1700
Translated by: Sarah B Findlater 1854
Tune: Llangloffan, a Welsh hymn melody

Here is one of four tunes I have recorded for this text:
https://youtu.be/x5FlK-CtGsY

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing, And darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle; At midnight comes the cry.

The watchers on the mountain Proclaim the bridegroom near;
Go forth as He approaches With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting; The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory; The bridegroom is at hand.

The saints, who here in patience Their cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever When sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory The Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him Their diadems of gold.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for, Over this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption That sets Your people free!

Allusions to Biblical text abound here! Most hymn books place this hymn within the Advent section. While the advent of something is surely present, it just isn’t the usual sense of Advent we have. The allusions are more appropriate to Revelations than the synoptic Gospels.

A great celebration is here as we await the arrival of the bridegroom and the watchers proclaim he is drawing near. The marriage between the bride (the church) and the bridegroom is at hand.

With the third stanza we have the second Advent for it is now after the saints have born their cross and sufferings shall they live with no more sorrow in the presence of the Lamb of God. This imagery of the Lamb and Bride of Christ can be found in Revelations chapters 19 and 20.

The final stanza calls for the redemption which will set the bridegroom’s people free from this benighted sphere.

Within the celebration of the Advent season sits the anticipation of the second coming of Christ. He came once to save and redeem, and he has promised to come again?

The author is a man who took the name Laurentius Laurenti (1660-1722). He spent most of his life in northern Germany. Laurenti was born: Lorenz Lorenzen but after a year studing music at the university of Rostock he adopted the latinized version of his name, a common practice at the time. In 1684 he became the music director at the Bremen Cathedral and wrote several dozen hymns.

The text was translated by Sarah B. Findlater (1823-1907). She was the wife of a pastor in Lochearnhead, Scotland, which then, as now, is nothing more than a wide spot in the road. Sarah wrote and translated (mostly from German) dozens of hymns throughout her life.

Andrew Remillard