Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

Praise for the Lord #109

Words: Johann Olearius, 1671; translated, Catherine Winkworth, 1863
Music: PSALM 42, Louis Bourgeois's Genevan Psalter, 1551; harmonized, Claude Goudimel, 1565

Johann Olearius (1611-1684) came from a prominent family of Lutheran theologians, including his father Johann (1546-1623), a brother Gottfried (1604-1685), two nephews, and five of his sons, not to mention extended family!("Johannes Olearius") To make things especially confusing, he named all of his sons Johann, with different middle names. Seriously. But in addition to theological writings, our Johann distinguished himself in the area of hymn-writing.

Olearius compiled a massive volume of hymns under the title Geistliche Singe-Kunst (1671), containing no fewer than 1,218 texts; the following year he issued a second volume under the same title, containing 1,340! His own hymns number nearly 300. One of his texts, "Gelobet sei der Herr," was the basis of a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 129). "Comfort, comfort ye my people" is a translation of his Tröstet, tröstet meine Lieben, a stanza of which appears in Bach's cantata Freue dich, erlöste Schaar (BWV 30).("Johannes Olearius") The text of this hymn is obviously drawn from Isaiah 40:1-5, and Olearius stays close to the actual wording of this passage in the 1545 Luther translation. He adds a few lines in the process of rendering this in poetic form, possibly drawing on Jeremiah 31 as well, as noted below.

If you love the old Lutheran chorales such as "O sacred head" and "A mighty Fortress," thank Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), the translator of this hymn. She is one of the primary reasons that English-speaking Christians outside of the Lutheran denomination have come to know the treasures of that musical tradition. Her chorale translations first appeared in Lyra Germanica (1853); its immediate success led to a second volume under that title in 1858, and the Chorale Book for England (1863), which introduced "Comfort, comfort ye my people."(DNB) Winkworth, who had a thorough classical education and was friends with Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë, had that rare combination of scholarship and artistry required to do such work well. Her other translations in Praise for the Lord are "If thou but suffer God to guide Thee"(#324), "Jesus, priceless treasure"(#361), "Now thank we all our God"(#457,#458), and "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"(#534).

"Comfort, comfort ye my people" comes from the opening words of Isaiah chapter 40, the very beginning point of that section of which Isaiah's authorship has been disputed for more than a century. I claim no authority in this kind of argument except that of common sense; yes, the section from chapter 40 to the end is different in subject matter and style, but there are many reasons that could happen. Perhaps there was a gap of time between Isaiah's writing of the two sections. Anyone who writes much can attest that style and expressions change over time. The different subject matter calls for a different tone as well.

And for that matter, why couldn't a writer adopt a radical shift of style and point of view for the shock effect alone? There is a hilarious story connected to W. A. Mozart's C major string quartet K.465, known as the "Dissonant Quartet" for its strikingly chromatic opening section. One of Mozart's publishers was certain that these had to be wrong notes, so he "corrected" them, to the composer's disgust! In the same way, some higher critics seem unable to make allowance for the genius, not to mention the inspiration, of the writers of Scripture.

How does the modern Christian, living in such a different position from the original writer, and from those in the days when these words were fulfilled, engage with this text and sing it in worship? Olearius wrote this hymn for a specific church festival, the birth of John the Baptizer, celebrated 24 June. I do not suggest we keep sacred festivals not given to us in Scripture, but this hymn would certainly be appropriate in a Bible class or worship service in which the lesson focused on the work of this great forerunner to Christ. This hymn also causes us to reflect upon our own mission, not unlike John's, to spread the news of the kingdom that is already here, and to point people to Christ. Finally, in this hymn calling for preparation for Christ's First Advent, we might pick up a pre-echo of our current situation as we await the Second Advent and the consummation of His kingdom in heaven.

Stanza 1:
Comfort, comfort ye my people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning 'neath their sorrows' load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover,
And her warfare now is over.

Miss Winkworth followed the grand language of the King James Version in several lines of her translation: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned."(Isaiah 40:1-2a) The 3rd-4th lines are not from Isaiah chapter 40; Olearius's text reads something like, "Comfort those who are afflicted / by the scorn and derision of the foe." I have not discovered a Scripture corresponding to this, though it is obviously much in character of the Isaiah 40 passage. Winkworth goes in a slightly different direction with these lines, referencing Isaiah 9:2, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined."

The Hebrew expression translated "comfort" in Isaiah 40 is nacham, a verb with an interesting range of meanings. Depending on context, it can mean "grieve," "repent," "take pity," or "give comfort."(Strong's H5162) This seems reminiscent of how God's interaction with Israel is described in the Hebrew Testament. The same word is used to describe God "repenting" (Exodus 32:14, KJV), in the sense of a change of heart and thus of future actions, of His initial decision to destroy the nation for the sin of worshiping the golden calf. Moses' desperate pleading caused God to grieve over the planned result, and to show mercy to the people. Time and time again throughout the nation's history, a period of sinful rebellion would end in God's protection being withdrawn, and the result was disaster. But time and time again, God was grieved at the suffering they had brought on themselves, took pity on them, and brought comfort to their affliction.

This is no "comfort," then, in the sense of being "comfortable." Rather, it is the comforting that a parent gives a misbehaving child, who, after receiving the consequences of his actions (not without tears), turns for reassurance and acceptance to the same parent who disciplined him. David might have thought of this richness of meaning in Psalm 23:4, "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." The shepherd's rod and staff can be weapons for proctection of the sheep, or tools to help the sheep out of a difficulty, but they can also deliver a correcting nudge (or something more substantial) to get the wayward sheep back into safety.

The same background lies behind the "comfort" of the Lord in Isaiah. "I will give thanks to You, O LORD, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away, that You might comfort me."(Isaiah 12:1) Following the dramatic turn of events in chapter 40, "comforting" is spoken of frequently:
For the LORD comforts Zion; He comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.(Isaiah 51:3)

Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.(Isaiah 52:9)
It was John the Baptizer's role to speak this comfort to Jerusalem, but it was a spiritual comforting, not a literal deliverance. The wilderness did not turn into a literal Eden, as in the the verse quoted above; but when John was privileged to publicly announce, "Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!,"(John 1:29) that desert turned into a paradise for those who were seeking the Lord.

Jesus came as a light to those who sat in darkness,(Matthew 4:12-17) as a reliever of burdens of sin,(Matthew 11:30) and a bringer of peace. The peace Jesus brought, however, was complicated. It was not a rapprochement between Judea and Rome, or a revolution against the same; it was an inward peace, and yet would bring about external effects just as surely as an armed revolt. After all, He said himself, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."(Matthew 10:34) Following Christ's path brings about division from this world, sometimes to the point of physical persecution.

But there is peace, regardless of circumstances, in knowing peace with God. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." (Psalm 32:1) It was this "peace on earth"that was promised at Christ's birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!"(Luke 2:14) That inner peace remains today for those who are reconciled to God: "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."(Philippians 4:7)

The spiritual "warfare" of Jerusalem (the capital city standing in for the nation itself in this passage) was brought to an end, at least in an ideal sense, with the coming of Christ. The long period of waiting and watching for the Lord's promise was completed, and despite trials and suffering through centuries of upheaval and oppression, God's will would not be thwarted. He had promised that the line of David would not fail, and that a king would reign on that throne forever.(1 Kings 9:5) With the coming of that final and greatest King, and the establishment of a spiritual kingdom that "will never be destroyed,"(Daniel 2:44) those faithful among Israel who had stood at their posts, as watchers on the wall,(Ezekiel 33:7) could see at last the fulfillment of the long years of struggle.

Wonderful as this comfort and peace is, however, we look forward to a day when comfort, release, and peace will be perfected in heaven. In that place, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."(Revelation 21:4) In that place there will be no more sin or temptation, because "there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie."(Revelation 21:27) In that place, "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."(Isaiah 2:4)

The complete hymn has another stanza here, sometimes omitted, based on the second half of Isaiah 40:2, "Tell her that her sins are pardoned; for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins."

Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
Blotting out each dark misdeed;
All that well deserved His anger
He will no more see nor heed.
She has suffered many a day,
Now her griefs have passed away,
God will change her pining sadness
Into ever springing gladness.

Olearius expands on his main text again in the 3rd-4th lines, possibly referencing Jeremiah 31:34b, "For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more," or Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." The final two lines seem to echo Jeremiah 31:13b, "I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow." (The resemblance is more obvious in the German original: "Their joy shall day by day be multiplied / And their sorrow into joy be transformed.")

The spiritual situation before Christ was certainly sorrowful. The people had been taken into exile, and returned only as a remnant; prophecy had fallen silent; and there was the lingering memory of Ezekiel's vision of the Glory of the Lord leaving the temple.(Ezekiel 10) Solomon's great dedication prayer acknowledged that the temple meant nothing without the Lord's presence:
But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that Your servant prays before you, that Your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where You have promised to set Your name, that You may listen to the prayer that Your servant offers toward this place.(2 Chronicles 6:18-20)
It was to the temple that sacrifices for sins were brought, and to which the people of Israel turned in prayer for forgiveness:
Whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven Your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart You know, according to all his ways, for You, You only, know the hearts of the children of mankind.(2 Chronicles 6:29-30)
But though that presence had been withdrawn before the exile, Malachi had promised that the Lord would return to His temple,(Malachi 3:1) and Jesus Christ very literally brought that to completion. Then, at His formal presentation, John the Baptizer cried out, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!"(John 1:29) The miracles of Jesus caused some controversy, but the real conflict began when He forgave sins--His enemies objected, in a statement more accurate than they realized, "Who can forgive sins, but God only?"(Mark 2:7) This was the deliverance the nation truly needed, and the deliverance the world needs today.

Stanza 2:
Hark, the voice of one that crieth
In the desert far and near,
Bidding all men to repentance
Since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
Let the valleys rise to meet Him,
And the hills bow down to greet Him.

The basis of this stanza is one of the most thrilling passages spoken by any prophet. Handel, the master dramatist of the London opera stage, knew this and made it into a powerful and memorable aria in his Messiah:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God! Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low."(Isaiah 40:3-4a)
Winkworth's original has "For Elijah's voice is crying"(Chorale Book, #83); our altered version is actually closer to Olearius's original, which follows Isaiah 40:3. Olearius does expand on the text somewhat in the 3rd-4th lines, however, possibly referencing the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 3:1-2, "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" The 5th line is completely Winkworth's; the German original follows Isaiah's "make straight in the desert a highway" at this point. Is there perhaps in Winkworth's "warning cry" an echo of the "midnight cry"of Matthew 25:6? "But at midnight there was a cry, 'Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'" This also touches on the similarities and differences between Christ's first and second Advents.

One of the striking elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy Lord of the Rings (and just one of many Scripture references in that work) is the plot line of Aragorn, the last survivor of a long-lost royal line, who lays claim to a kingdom that has been ruled for centuries by a succession of stewards. The final book of the trilogy, The Return of the King, shows the sad downfall of the last steward, Denethor, whose admirable stand against the forces of evil is tainted by his jealous rejection of Aragorn--the king for whom he was supposed to be preserving the throne. (Admittedly, fans of the book still debate this point in the plot!)

Jesus faced a similar reception from most of the religious leaders among His own people. Malachi chapter 3 begins with these thought-provoking words:
"Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the Covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.(Malachi 3:1-2)
After hundreds of years, the Lord did indeed return to His temple; would those who claimed to be waiting for Him be ready for what they got? John, the herald, warned them:
Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.(Matthew 3:10-12)
When the Messiah came, it was a time for rejoicing, but it was also a time for serious decision. Would the people of God believe in their King? If they believed in Him, would they obey? Many of the leadership realized Jesus was at least "a teacher come from God."(John 3:2) But when it came down to it, they decided, "We have no king but Caesar."(John 19:15)

The same question is before each of us today: Will we believe? Will we obey? If so, we will "prepare the way" to receive the King--we will obey what He commands. John's "warning cry" to receive the King still echoes down through the years, but someday there will be another cry: not to repentance, or announcing a kingdom, but declaring the return of the King to judge His subjects. "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God."(1 Thessalonians 4:16) Someday "every knee shall bow."(Isaiah 45:23) The only question is, will I bow to Him now, and let Him be Lord in my life, or will I bow only then when it is too late?

Stanza 3:
Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain;
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits His holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
Now o'er earth is shed abroad;
And all flesh shall see the token
That His word is never broken.

The final stanza of the hymn comes from the 4th and 5th verses of Isaiah 40. Again Winkworth follows the King James Version closely:
"And the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."
The 3rd-4th lines, however, do not appear to come from this passage; I cannot find a specific Scripture to which they relate, though they obviously are in harmony with the text at hand.

One specific choice by Winkworth--the word "token" in the penultimate line--may strike the ear as rather odd. The reason for this peculiar wording likely goes back to her meticulous care to convey the poetic quality of the original text, which in this case includes "double rhyme" (rhyming each syllable in two-syllable words) at the end of each stanza.(Chorale Book, vi) I suspect this happens more naturally in German, because both the declension of nouns and conjugation of verbs tend to add unaccented syllables at the ends of words (e.g. Erde / werde, Fleish kann sehen / muß geschehen in this stanza). It's not so easy to pull off well in English, and my respect for Winkworth's craft has risen another notch!

These words reminds us that repentance is no easy thing. When we build a literal highway, there is a huge amount of planning, time, effort, and expense involved in preparing the road bed. I am reminded of Interstate Highway 540 that connects Fayetteville, Arkansas to Interstate 40, one of the major east-west highways. This western portion of the Ozark mountains is beautiful but rugged country, and I have driven the little state highways through this region with my heart in my mouth; the twists and turns, steep climbs and sharp drops make it like riding rollercoaster, except without the assurance that the ride will end safely. By contrast, Interstate 540 is a broad, level road, where my greatest danger was falling asleep from the pleasant ride. I cannot imagine how much work it took to blast through the hills, build up the grades, put in bridges, and dig the lengthy tunnel required to make this level road.

John's words in Isaiah 40 tell us that this is what Jesus wants to do with us--He wants to make a royal highway into our hearts, by which we can be in constant communion with our Lord. The crooked, twisted parts of our lives can be straightened out. The rough places can be leveled off, and the gaps filled. We cannot do this on our own; we may not even be able to imagine what Jesus can make of us, just as I could not have imagined such a straight and level highway in that part of Arkansas. But this is what Jesus wants to do with our lives. He is willing to start with me "Just as I am," but He doesn't intend me to remain that way!

The "glory of the Lord" was seen on earth again when Jesus was born, revealed first to humble shepherds.(Luke 2:9) "The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world."(John 1:9) Those who came to know Jesus and heard His words could say, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."(John 1:14) This light and glory was to spread across the world through the teaching of Jesus' disciples; and as the crowd said in Thessalonica, those disciples "turned the world upside down."(Acts 17:6) Paul proclaimed his mission then, and our mission today, in this picturesque passage:
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.(2 Corinthians 4:5-7)
The glory of the Lord shone on this earth one night 2,000 years ago; we need to reflect it in our lives, so that people will know that we "have been with Jesus."(Acts 4:13) But there is a day coming, of course, when the "glory of the Lord" will be seen by every person, and no one will be able to ignore it or turn away:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.(Matthew 25:31-32)
At that revelation, there will be no more time to repent and prepare. And though "all flesh shall see Him together" on that day,(Isaiah 40:5) not everyone will see it the same way. "Who can endure the day of His coming?"(Malachi 3:2) Those who understand and respond to the grace expressed in this promise: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."(2 Peter 3:9) If we have obeyed His gospel and are walking in His light, then we can spend our time here, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."(Titus 2:13)

Here is a very nice a cappella rendition of this hymn, with a slightly different harmonization than what is used in Praise for the Lord, sung by the Chapel Choir of the Conrad Grebel University College (Waterloo, Ontario:(

About the music:

Douen's groundbreaking work on the 16th-century French psalters identifies this tune as one of those provided by Louis Bourgeois (c. 1510-1560) for Psalm 42, "Ainsi qu'on oit le cerf bruire" ("As the deer pants for the water"), in the 1551 edition of the Geneva Psalter.(Douen, 1:649) Douen also notes, "The reader familiar with our Psalter will notice that almost all of the best tunes, the most original and most melodious . . . belong to the first period of the publication, that is to say, to Bourgeois."(Douen, 1:650) Bourgeois (c. 1510-1560) is the best-known of the tune-smiths associated with Calvinist Psalm-singing in Geneva, which in turn carried over to the English-language Psalm-singing tradition. His best-known contribution, of course, was OLD HUNDREDTH.

PSALM 42 is an excellent example of the folk-like tunes that characterized early Reformed psalmody, and there is speculation that Bourgeois adapted this tune from the secular song "Ne l’oseray je dire," found in the Bayeux Manuscript c. 1510.(Fornaçon). Some elements are simple to the extreme, such as syllabic setting of the text (one syllable, one note) and the use of only two different note values (in our version, the quarter note and half note; the whole notes at the ends of phrases are really more like written-out holds). Some elements are quite complex, particularly the variety of phrase lengths, the quickly shifting meters, and the tendency toward syncopation.(Owens, 2) The only leaps in the melody are between notes in the tonic triad (DO, MI, and SOL); otherwise it moves entirely by step, within the range of an octave. The meter is so varied, however, that the version in Praise for the Lord uses no time signature at all. If time signatures had been used, they would have given us:
6/4 | 3/2 | 6/4 | 4/2


6/4 | 3/2 | 6/4 | 3/2

6/4 | 3/2 | 6/4 | 4/2
I suppose this could have been written with a 6/4 3/2 mixed-meter signature at the beginning, and the 4/2 bars given as 3/2 bars with written holds on the final notes.

This particular rhythm is sometimes called "hemiola," referring to the ratio 3:2, because the two beats of 6/4 time (2 dotted half-notes, each worth 3 quarter notes) are replaced by three beats in 3/2 time (3 half notes, each worth 2 quarter notes). It is characteristic of some kinds of folk music, especially for dancing, and was especially common in the secular music of the Renaissance. The Italian "frottola" seemed to use it frequently, as in the video example at the right. No wonder Queen Elizabeth referred to the Calvinist tunes as those "Genevan jigs!"(Owens)
Though the original Reformed practice in public worship was to sing Psalms in a cappella unison, there were many harmonized settings produced as well. The most influential of these came from Claude Goudimel (d. 1572), an accomplished sacred and secular composer whose conversion to Huguenot principles cost him his life in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Goudimel created more complex choral motets based on the Psalm tunes, but also very simple, syllabic works such as the 1565 four-part setting of Psalm 42.(Mancini) This is available online thanks to Christof Biebricher's transcription. In keeping with the practice of the times, the melody was in the tenor voice. The upper parts of Goudimel's original are split up between the alto and tenor in the modern version, but otherwise they are pretty similar.

Johann Schein used this tune for the text "Freu dich sehr" in his 1645 Cantional, and this has become the common name of this tune in the Lutheran chorale tradition.(Terry, 2:165) There are settings of this tune by Johann Crüger and others, which account for the many different harmonizations that are sometimes heard. Michael Owens's Genevan Psalter Resource Center ( has a page on the Psalm 42 tune with information about several other settings.


"Johannes Olearius (1611-1684)." Wikipedia (German).

"Catherine and Susanna Winkworth." Dictionary of National Biography, reproduced at Eclectic Ethereal Encyclopedia of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

The Chorale Book for England, Catherine Winkworth, translator, William Sterndale Bennett and Otto Goldschmidt, music editors. London: Longman, Green & Co., 1863.

"Nacham (Strong's H5162)." Genesius's Lexicon, provided through

Douen, Orentin. Clément Marot et le Psautier huguenot, 2 volumes. Paris: Impremiere nationale, 1878. Volume I:

Owens, Michael E. "The Geneva Psalter." 2008. From The Genevan Psalter Resource Center.

Terry, Charles Sanford. Bach's Chorals, 3 volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1917. Volume 2:

Fornaçon, Siegfried. "Psalm 42 aus Genf." Jahrbuch für Liturgik und Hymnologie, 3 (1958-1959), pp. 111-113. Cited in The Hymnal 1982 Companion, ed. Raymond F. Glover. New York: Church Pension Fund, 1994, volume 3, page 127 (see this page also for comparison of the melodies).

Mancini, Donato. "Claude Goudimel."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Praise for the Lord #108

Words: Charles Wesley, 1745
Music: Rowland H. Prichard, HYFRYDOL, 1831; arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1951

Charles Wesley's best-known Christmas hymn was his first; "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (originally, "Hark! How all the welkin rings") appeared in the 1739 Hymns and Sacred Poems, the collection that introduced Wesley's hymns to the world. But he returned to the theme of the Incarnation often, reprinting the 1739 hymn as a broadside in 1743 (presumably; no copies survive), and issuing two more Christmas collections in 1744 and 1745.(Maddox, Nativity Hymns)

The first of these, Hymns for Christmas Day, is also sadly not extant, and is known only through its printer's account books. It might have been an early version of the following year's Nativity Hymns, or a collection of Christmas hymns by various authors, or even an entirely different collection of original Christmas hymns by Wesley.(Maddox, Hymns for Christmas Day) Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology dates "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" to 1744, presumably upon the first assumption; many modern sources have followed him, though the hymn cannot be confirmed to have appeared before 1745.

The Nativity Hymns collection consists of 18 hymns, of which "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" is the 10th. Though few in number, these texts are notable for their variety of meters--no fewer than 14 different metrical schemes for 18 hymns--and for their richness of imagery.(Maddox, Nativity Hymns) The rhyme and rhythm of some are quite peculiar, as in the 3rd hymn, "Angels speak, let men give ear," which has the syllable pattern (sometimes, or the 6th hymn, "Come all ye joyful nations," which has the syllable pattern and the rhyme scheme a b c c b. Unusual stuff for hymns!

Wesley's language is striking as well, getting at the heart of the amazing fact of the God-Man. From the previously mentioned "Angels speak, let men give ear," we have this stanza:
Wrapt in swaths
th’ immortal stranger
Man with men
We have seen,
Lying in a manger.
He touches on the puzzling question of an eternal, omniscient Lord beginning earthly life as an infant, in the 4th hymn, "Glory be to God on high":
Emptied of his majesty,
Of his dazling glories shorn,
Being’s source begins to be,
And God himself is BORN.
The 5th hymn, "Let earth and heaven combine," makes this pithy observation on the Creator of worlds made a mortal child, and sums up the wonder that Wesley saw in this event: "Our God contracted to a span / Incomprehensibly made man."

By contrast, "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" is relatively straightforward in structure ( doubled, rhyming a b a b c d c d) and contains no intentionally jarring language. Instead, Wesley wrote a sweet, uplifting hymn from the perspective of the faithful Jews who were looking for the promised Messiah, and borrows heavily from the language of the Hebrew prophets. Perhaps it was this familiar sound of Scripture that boosted the popularity of this hymn; of all the 18 texts in the collection, only a handful remained in widespread use into the 20th century, and this is by far the most likely to remain for years to come.

Stanza 1:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart!

The expectation of the Messiah among the ancient Jews probably began in earnest with the writings of Isaiah, who gave the most extensive treatment of an ideal future King descended from David. The spiritual nature of Messiah's mission was predominant in Isaiah, bringing peace and justice, redeeming Israel and showing Gentiles the way.(e.g. Isaiah 11) Even the fairly liberal treatment of the subject in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia admits that the concept of the Messiah as a primarily political/military deliverer was "not a characteristic of the Messianic hope until a later stage of its development."("Messiah") But over time, with the frequent political upsets and disadvantages suffered by the Jews during the period following the close of Hebrew prophecy, the aspect of Messiah as an avenging conqueror eventually overshadowed the more complete view given by the totality of Scripture.

These different expectations of the Messiah are seen throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus' life. Even His cousin John, His own herald, seems to have had doubts based on this: "Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?"(Matthew 11:2-3) At Jesus' birth, the people's belief in a political Messiah was very much on the mind of the paranoid tyrant, Herod the Great:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"(Matthew 2:1-6)
And at the end of Jesus' life, it was this concept of a political Messiah that condemned Him to death: in His trial (whether before Annas or Caiaphas Mark does not specify), "Again the high priest asked Him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?'"(Mark 14:61)

The common people looked for the Messiah as well, with a variety of expectations. Andrew informed his brother Peter of Jesus with the words, "We have found the Messiah!"(John 1:41) The description of the people who came to hear John the Baptizer gives us a similar picture: "The people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ."(Luke 3:15) After Jesus began His ministry, the crowds that heard Him in Jerusalem debated His Messianic identity with at least as much logic as had their spiritual leaders:
When they heard these words, some of the people said, "This really is the Prophet." Others said, "This is the Christ." But some said, "Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?"(John 7:40-42)
A correct conclusion, but based on an incorrect assumption. But on at least one occasion, the people were persuaded to the extent of trying to make Jesus their earthly King,(John 6:15) and Jesus' entry into Jerusalem before His death (John 12:12-16) was accompanied by palm branches, a symbol of royalty. Even the fact that He rode on a donkey was in fulfillment of the description of the future King given in Zechariah 9:9.

If the people saw Him as their rightful King, they were on the right track but thinking on the wrong plane. Christ told Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world,"(John 18:36) and it is no surprise that the worldly, practical-minded Roman did not know how to respond. But to be fair, even some of His own disciples were not always clear on this point, as they asked before His ascension, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"(Acts 1:6) The Lord's simple words in Luke 17:12, "The kingdom of God is within you," took time to understand.

On the other hand, there were those who understood more of the spiritual nature of the Messiah's reign. Even the rather flippant Samaritan woman Jesus encountered in John chapter 4 had a vague concept of the Messiah as a spiritual teacher: "When He comes, He will tell us all things."(John 4:25) This understanding is most clearly seen in Simeon, a man "waiting for the consolation of Israel,"(Luke 2:25) who spoke these beautiful words over the infant Jesus at the temple:
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.(Luke 2:29-32)
Simeon's words might reflect the language of the Messianic prophecy in the 9th chapter of Isaiah:
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time He brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.(Isaiah 9:1-2)
It seems likely that Wesley's words in this first stanza are derived from these passages. The very next words in Isaiah chapter 9 are,
You have multiplied the nation; You have increased its joy; they rejoice before You as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, You have broken as on the day of Midian.(Isaiah 9:3-4)
Jesus was "born to set His people free," releasing them from the yoke of oppression. Yet it was not the oppression of Rome He came to break, but the more permanent and deadly oppression of sin. When Jesus spoke of throwing off a yoke, He only said gently,
Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.(Matthew 11:28-30)
Wesley emphasizes freedom from spiritual tyranny of "sins and fears," perhaps referencing Matthew 11 when he says, "Let us find our rest in Thee."

Jesus was the One "long-expected" by the nation, and by Simeon himself, whom God had promised would live to see the Messiah.(Luke 2:26) Jesus was "Israel's Strength and Consolation" that Simeon had waited for.(Luke 2:25) Wesley also references the prophecy to Zerubbabel from the 2nd chapter of Haggai:
For thus saith the LORD of Hosts: "Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.

"And I will fill this house with glory," saith the LORD of Hosts. "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine," saith the LORD of Hosts. "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former," saith the LORD of Hosts, "and in this place will I give peace," saith the LORD of Hosts.(Haggai 2:6-9)
Though the import (and translation) of Haggai's phrase "desire of all nations" is debated today, Wesley would certainly have taken it to mean Christ, as expressed in his words, "Dear desire of every nation," which intersects nicely with Simeon's prophecy of "a light to the Gentiles."

The first stanza is a reflection upon the ancient Jews' earnest expectation for the coming of the Messiah into the world. The second stanza speaks to our own individual need to accept His reign in our lives.

Stanza 2:
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Wesley turns here, as he so often did in the Nativity Hymns, to the incongruities of the scene at Christ's birth. The King of Kings was a baby; "God contracted to a span," as Wesley said in another hymn, the Creator of the Universe lying in the span of His mother's arm. As if there could be further shock in this scene, He is laid in a feeding trough for lack of a bed, having been literally "born in a barn." My grandfather Hamrick, one of ten children in an Oklahoma pioneer family, slept in a shed with his brothers, the two bedrooms of the house being given over to his parents and sisters. There is no shame in that necessity; but if God wanted to show us that He was coming down to the level of the very least among us, there could be no greater demonstration than the place of Christ's birth!

And for the first royal reception of the King of Kings upon this earth, He was honored with a visit from shepherds who had been watching their sheep in the fields at night--which denotes them as men who either had not enough means to hire someone to do this for them, or as the ones who had so been hired. Again, there is no shame in that or in any other kind of honest work; but if God wanted to show us that He cares not for earthly dignity, but rather for honest and open hearts, there could be no greater demonstration than in the honors brought by these first visitors on that blessed night!

For it is a kingdom "not of this world,"(John 18:36) not enforced externally by force of law and arms, but willingly accepted into the heart and mind:
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."(Luke 17:20-21)
When Christ's kingdom comes into a person's heart through obedient faith, it is a "gracious kingdom," as Wesley says, both in the sense of beauty and mildness but also in the literal sense of a "kingdom of grace:"
For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. . . . So that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.(Romans 5:17,21)
As subjects of this gentle sovereignty, we must remember to Whom our allegiance lies, and to Whom we in fact belong: "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."(1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Our King has "put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."(2 Corinthians 1:22)

In one sense, songs about Christ's birth are a reflection back on a fixed event in the past--a historical reality that we did not ourselves witness. But as we sing such songs, we remember the importance of what Jesus' incarnation still means for us today, and will for eternity. And though we also see the coming of His kingdom as an event that took place in that generation of the first century, we ourselves must decide at some point whether we will allow that kingdom to come into our own hearts. Even after becoming Christians, we decide every day whether to submit to the reign of that long-exepected Messiah, with all its blessings. "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."(Colossians 3:15)

About the music:

The Lord blessed Wales with an abundance of great tunesmiths, and HYFRYDOL is one of the best from that tradition. The harmonization is by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a modern English composer who respected the beauty and diversity of folk music. For a discussion of this tune and its setting, see my post on "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus."


Maddox, Randy L., editor. Hymns for Christmas Day (1744). Charles Wesley's Published Verse. Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition, Duke University.

Maddox, Randy L. Nativity Hymns (1745). Charles Wesley's Published Verse. Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition, Duke University, 2009.

"Messiah." Jewish Encyclopedia (1906).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Come Unto Me

Praise for the Lord #107
Words: Franklin E. Belden, 1895
Music: Franklin E. Belden, 1895; arr. Ellis J. Crum, 1959

Franklin Edson Belden (1858-1945) has been described as "the most prolific writer of hymn tunes, gospel songs, and related texts in the early years of the Seventh-day Adventist Church."(IAMA) A nephew of Ellen White herself, he was close to the inner circle of Adventist leadership, and used his considerable talents in songwriting and editing in service of the Review and Herald Publishing House in Battle Creek, Michigan.(Land, 39) He was quickly recognized as the rising star among Adventist songwriters, and co-edited the 1886 Hymns and Tunes, contributing more than 80 songs. Christ in Song (1900) was a project conceived and carried out on his own, and has been called "the most popular songbook ever published by the [Seventh-Day Adventist] church."(IAMA)

Belden's career among the Seventh-Day Adventists ended abruptly, however, in the midst of a complicated controversy. Land's entry on Belden in the Historical Dictionary of Seventh-Day Adventists says that he left that church in 1907 over a royalties dispute.(39) According to the biography on the web site of the International Adventist Musicians Association, Belden relinquished copyright on his songs for use in the Adventist hymnals at a time when all royalties went to mission work, and objected when this policy was later changed.(IAMA)

There was considerably more to this story, however; Belden was actually among a large number of Seventh-Day Adventists who were expelled from that fellowship in the summer of 1907, branded as "apostates" and "heretics" for lack of faith in the inspiration of Ellen White.(Cass City Chronicle, 17 July 1907) Belden's real position on Seventh-Day Adventism and his aunt's prophecies is still disputed. Following this break, Belden wrote songs for the evangelical revivalist Billy Sunday.

In "Come unto me," Belden takes his chorus directly from the words of Christ in Matthew 11:28-29 (King James Version), a beautiful invitation that is all the more powerful taken in context of the entire discourse. Toward the beginning of the chapter, Jesus received two disciples of John who brought word from that prophet, then bound in Herod's prison, who asked, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"(v.3) Opinions vary on why John asked this question, but the most obvious answer seems to be a certain amount of doubt mixed with some frustration as Jesus pursued a path far different from what anyone expected of the Messiah. Jesus' reply is terse:
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.(v.5-6)
But then Jesus strongly defended His cousin, contrasting John's faithfulness (in spite of doubts) to the fickleness of the crowds who had come to hear, first the herald, and then the Messiah Himself.(v.7-8,16-17) This leads into a series of "woes" pronounced on places where Jesus had worked extensively, specifically the Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

"I would believe in God if He personally revealed Himself to me." Have you ever heard someone express this? The people of those Galilean cities and villages, in that generation, had just that opportunity--but relatively few believed. "No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him,"(v.27) and Jesus had done just that; but the seemingly "wise and prudent" of His own people rejected Him.(v.25) He fulfilled the words of the prophets, revealed the Father, and preached the gospel of grace and peace. What more could He have done? No wonder His comparisons are so harsh--Tyre and Sidon, the proud seacoast cities that were utterly destroyed according to prophecy, and Sodom, which is still a byword for sin.

Yet after these reflections on His own rejection, and on the coming condemnation of those who turned away from Him, come some of the most beautiful words ever to cross His lips.
Come unto Me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.(v.28-30)
Even in the face of rejection, persecution, and His coming passion, Jesus held out the hope of forgiveness. "The Lord . . . is longsuffering toward us, not willing [i.e., desiring, DRH] that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."(2 Peter 3:9) We have a hard time understanding that kind of forgiveness. Perhaps the closest we can see, in human terms, is the longsuffering patience of parents; even toward a child who has hurt them, there is a nearly unquenchable desire to restore the relationship. God's love is far greater even than this love, thus the indescribable beauty of His grace as seen in Jesus' words.

Stanza 1:
O heart bowed down with sorrow!
O eyes that long for sight!
There's gladness in believing,
In Jesus there is light.

The "heart bowed down with sorrow" was a fairly common cliche of Victorian prose and poetry, as a phrase search of Google Books reveals, but I believe Belden was referencing a Scriptural expression: "The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.(Psa 146:8) This was fulfilled literally in the miracles of Jesus, as His message to John in Matthew 11:5 made clear. Luke 13:11-12 tells of Jesus' healing of a woman who was "bent over [KJV 'bowed together'] and could in no way raise herself up." Jesus also restored sight to the blind on several occasions, most famously when He gave sight to the man born blind (John 9).

But as wonderful as these physical, outward miracles were, Jesus grieved all the more over the spiritual hurts that people would not let Him heal. He saw people "burdened with sins" (2 Timothy 3:6), and misled by erring spiritual leaders who "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger."(Matthew 23:4) He saw multitudes turn away from His message, fulfilling the word that, "seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand."(Isaiah 6:9, Luke 8:10) How much more Jesus rejoiced to straighten up the spiritually "bowed down," and offer sight to the spiritually blind!

"Come unto me,
All ye that labor,
And are heavy laden,
And I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you,
And learn of Me;
For I am meek and lowly in heart:
And ye shall find rest unto your souls."

There are many famous revolutionary speeches in history, rallying people around a leader and a cause. The Jews of the 1st century had heard a few themselves. But instead of promising glory and honor, riches and lands, or freedom from political oppression, Jesus called His followers to something no earthly leader could offer--rest and relief of the spirit. The world could not understand this kind of revolution, because, as Jesus tried to explain to Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world."(John 18:36) It is an inward overthrow of servitude to sin, and restoration of God to His rightful place in our lives. As Jesus told His confused hearers, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."(Luke 17:20-21)

The outcome of this revolution is also far different from that of most human political upsets. From ancient times up to this morning's news report, we have ample evidence that many revolutions just end up changing one kind of tyranny for another. By contrast, Jesus promises that His "yoke is easy." The yoke, a frame used to harness plow animals for work, was a symbol of servitude to another, stretching back to the book of Genesis. Christ's revolution does not free us from all service; Bob Dylan was right when he claimed, "Gotta serve somebody." But the yoke of obedience laid on us by Christ is for our good, not our exploitation, and leads us to joy and rest.

Finally, Christ's credentials are in stark contrast to those heroes of human history who led revolutions. He did not ask people to come to Him because of His power, or authority, or ability to confound the political, military, and religious leadership of His day; He claimed instead, "For I am meek and lowly in heart." Few politicians would run on that campaign platform (if only they would!), and few revolutions, if any, hinge on the humility of their instigator. But this kind of revolution could not work in any other way. If we can come to truly understand the
humility of Christ, the revolution has begun within us.

Earth's fleeting gain and pleasure
Can never satisfy:
'Tis love our joy doth measure,
For love can never die.


In Belden's original this is the second of four stanzas, but the Churches of Christ in the U.S. have used two different three-stanza versions over the years. "Come unto me" appears in the Gospel Advocate Co.'s Christian Hymns (1935) with all four, but the original second stanza (above) is retained and the original third stanza (below) is omitted in Christian Hymns no. 2. That three-stanza version was followed by the hymnals from Firm Foundation (Majestic Hymnal) and Howard Publishing (Songs of the Church). The Great Songs of the Church series, however, did just the opposite, omitting the original second stanza and retaining the original third stanza. This was followed, as usual, in Praise for the Lord. The reasons for some of these editorial decisions may become apparent below.

The stanza above might have been inspired in part by the description of Moses in the great 11th chapter of Hebrews:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.(24-26)
Even if riches and pleasures of the world do not keep a person out of the kingdom (and the kingdom out of the person), they can stunt the believers' growth to the point of futility: "as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature."(Luke 8:14) Moses in his day was tempted with the best the world had to offer, and chose instead the greater riches of faithful service to his God. He chose to trust instead in the steadfast love and mercy of God, which endures forever.(Psalm 136)

Stanza 2:
Divinest consolation
Doth Christ the Healer give;
Art thou in condemnation?
Believe, repent and live.


"And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel . . ."(Luke 2:25) One of the attributes of the Messiah was this "consolation," comforting hurts and righting wrongs, bringing about a joyous and cheerful situation for the people of Israel. Jesus brought this in a greater sense than even faithful Simeon could have hoped, offering us a "strong"(Hebrews 6:18) and "everlasting"(2 Thessalonians 2:16) consolation that "abounds."(2 Corinthians 1:5) The Greek word here is παράκλησις (paraklēsis), related to the Lord's name "Comforter" for the Holy Spirit.(John 14-17) Both are rooted in the idea of "calling to the side (of another)."(Thayer, 137) This is, in a sense, exactly what the gospel offers: to be called to the side of the Father from whom we once were separated by sin.

Christ as the Healer is a favorite image to many of us, and has inspired many great hymns. Rather than a warrior-king bringing death and destruction, He came as the Great Physician to heal a hurting world. David knew this side of God when he said of his Lord, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."(Psalm 147:3) Faithful Jews such as Simeon thrilled to the promise in the closing chapter of the Hebrew Testament, "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings."(Malachi 4:2) When Jesus came working the signs of the Messiah, the majority of them were just such acts of healing. But the greatest work of healing of all was when the Healer gave up His own life to save the patient: "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—-by whose stripes you were healed."(1 Peter 2:24, cf. Isaiah 53:5)

The last line of this stanza, "Repent, believe, and live," may be the reason it was dropped from many of the hymnals used among Churches of Christ; we are so used to having to defend the essentiality of baptism in salvation, that we are quick to suspect any omission of its mention. It is clear from their official doctrinal statements that the Seventh-Day Adventist position on salvation (like that of many other religious groups) is that belief and repentance are all that is required to be born again; baptism is treated quite separately as a public confession of one's committment to Christ and desire to be recognized in the church.("Fundamental beliefs") There is every reason to believe that Belden held the same view, and would have considered "believe, repent, and live" to be a sufficient answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?"

By contrast, the Acts of the Apostles, which is nothing less than a record of evangelism and conversions under the inspired teaching of those men, presents baptism as the immediate response for a believer desiring salvation. Other more theological passages connect it directly to the spiritual regeneration of the new birth: "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."(Titus 3:5) And when Peter said, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you,"(1 Peter 3:21) he placed that act on a par with faith and repentance as an essential part of salvation. (For an interesting article on this topic, I recommend Wayne Jackson's Acts 2:38--not so tough!")

But must every song that mentions the subject give a thorough step-by-step treatment of the plan of salvation? Very few of our "invitation songs" do. I suggest this is something that has to be determined case by case, and according to the best judgment of elders, song leaders, and individual Christians. I remember a good sister objecting to the line "Thou savest those that on Thee call" in the hymn "Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts." She felt that it was teaching a faith-only or "sinner's prayer" salvation that omitted baptism. That line, of course, is a paraphrase of Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Given the discussion of baptism in the preceding 6th chapter of the same letter, it is gross error to take this single verse as a full statement of Paul's teaching on how to be saved! Besides, Paul himself gave a commentary on "calling on the name of the Lord" when he retold the words he had heard from Ananias, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."(Acts 22:16)

But to that particular sister, it was a problem, and I took her advice respectfully and promised to give it thought. Certainly if there is one song that causes honest concerns on the part of some members (and she was a gracious, spiritual lady who was not a chronic fault-finder!), there are plenty of other songs in the book. The decision to omit this stanza of "Come unto Me" in many hymnals may have been wise, and I too have generally avoided using this stanza simply because of the assumptions that some might make about the meaning of that final line. Error is so rampant on the subject that I would not want to give an "uncertain sound."(1 Corinthians 14:8)

Stanza 3:
His peace is like a river,
His love is like a song;
His yoke's a burden never;
'Tis easy all day long.


The phrase "peace like a river" is common to several hymns, old and new, but is traceable back to two statements recorded by the prophet Isaiah. The first is spoken in woe: "Oh that you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea."(Isaiah 48:18) But the second is spoken in reassurance of the future:
For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.(Isaiah 66:12-13)
A large river is a thing of beauty and power, and inspires awe when we give it consideration. Slow-moving and calm as it may appear, it has an inexorable force that can move massive burdens in shipping and turn generators that light our cities. The peace Jesus offers is far more powerful, of course, and just as surely can sweep away the burdens of sin and bring new light and life to our lives!

But is Christ's yoke really "easy all day long?" He said it was "easy" and "light," and that of course is enough. It is not, however, nonexistent; and perhaps His words are best understood in comparison to the alternative. Which is harder to bear, a heavy load on direct journey to a known destination, or an even heavier load carried in circles without purpose? Jesus also said, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."(Matthew 16:24) Whatever our cross may be, it is a burden; but like the far greater cross borne by our Savior, it is not carried without purpose! There is rest and peace, a resolution of purpose, to be found in this path of the cross.

About the music:

"Come unto me" is one of the finest gospel songs of its type that I have encountered, and even a brief glance at Belden's other works reveals an intriguing variety in both texts and music. "I cannot drive the nails again", "The Passover", "God shall be first", and "Hallelujahs to Jesus", to name just a few, show an unusual imagination. This raises an interesting question: where did Belden receive his musical training? Latter-Day Saints sources say that he received most of his education at Battle Creek College, but did not begin composing until his family moved to California for a missionary sojourn in about 1876.("We Know Not the Hour") Battle Creek College did not have a music teacher on staff at its founding in 1874,(Lawrence, 47) so the logical supposition is that Belden studied in California (though there were music teachers of course in Battle Creek at the time).

A search of for "Adventists" shows they were particularly active in Oakland about 1874-1876, and at Placerville in 1879; these are the only locations in California where they are mentioned in the 1870s. Bishop's Oakland Directory for 1876-1877 places "Frank E. Belden" in Oakland as a mailing agent for Signs of the Times, an Adventist newspaper, during this very period, confirming the received history of his movements.

Where might he have studied music in Oakland during the late 1870s? The fledgling University of California was located there, on what is today the Berkeley campus, but in 1876 it was strictly a professional school with no arts faculty. In fairness, few universities in the U.S. offered advanced studies in music at this time; the traditional route for a professional musician was through a conservatory or independent studies. An exception to this rule, however, was Mills Seminary (now Mills College), a women's college that strongly emphasized the integration of the arts across the curriculum. The Department of Music in 1876 had a faculty of eight, including some names well known in their time. Ernst von Hartmann (1840-1894) was actually a graduate of the famed Leipzig Conservatory, and has been called "one of San Francisco's first teachers of standing and reputation."(Frederica) The vocal instructor, Alfred Kelleher, was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London.(Pankey)

If you listen the music of this hymn by itself, and try to separate it from the spiritual association formed by long familiarity with the text, it really has a great deal of that trait called bel canto ("beautiful song") for which Italian singing has so long been famous. "Come unto Me" sounds like it could have been a lost aria from an early Romantic opera, or perhaps one of those Neapolitan songs that cross the line between classical and popular song. Compare, for example, Enrico Caruso's classic recording of "Santa Lucia":

I'm not suggesting we sing "Come unto me" in this style, but only to point out that Belden's setting is really a very beautiful piece of music on its own merits. Imagine Caruso singing the chorus of "Come unto Me," or maybe one of the Italian crooners, and I think you'll see what I mean.

In Praise for the Lord and a few other hymnals, Belden's original soprano-alto duet is harmonized in the standard a cappella SATB format. The editors note that this arrangement came from Ellis J. Crum's Sacred Selections, a hymnal that is famous for the editor's penchant for making changes to texts, and occasionally to the music. (I greatly respect Brother Crum's desire for our singing to be in accord with Scripture, but I am sometimes baffled by his decisions.) Why would Crum have added the bass and tenor parts to the original duet by the women's voices?

I have known at least one person who objected to any song in which the women's parts were featured alone in this fashion, because it theoretically gave the women of the church a teaching position over the men. (Not surprisingly, this person had a lot of unusual ideas.) He resolved this problem by singing along with all the soprano-alto duets, which of course any man is welcome to do anyway in the free-wheeling atmosphere of congregational singing. I did wonder, of course, why he didn't object to the sopranos being given the melody all the time, since that could technically be viewed as usurping authority over the tenors and basses.

I do not know if this objection had anything at all to do with Crum's decision. He might simply have thought that the singing would be better served by keeping all the parts in. This song was meant to have instrumental accompaniment under the women's voices, and though they are quite beautiful without it, I have noticed a tendency for these soprano-alto duets to drag even more than congregational singing naturally does. (There must be some corollary between congregational a cappella singing and Newton's Law of Inertia, but I have not finalized this theory.) The editors of Praise for the Lord also opted for fully harmonized versions of all the songs that originally featured soprano-alto duets.


"Franklin Edson Belden." International Adventist Musicians Association web site.

Land, Gary. Historical Dictionary of  Seventh-Day Adventists. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

"Adventists fired." Cass City Chronicle (Cass City, Michigan), 2/12 (12 July 1907)

Thayer, Joseph Henry. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, revised and enlarged. Boston: H. L. Hastings, 1896.

"Fundamental beliefs." The Official Site of the Seventh-Day Adventist World Church.

"We Know Not the Hour." Suggested Materials for use on Heritage Sabbath, October 20, 2001. Ellen G. White Estate, 2001.

Lawrence, Henry H. "Select Michigan Counties." Pure Michigan.

Bishop's Oakland Directory for 1876-1877. Oakland, California: B. C. Vandall, 1876.

Fredericka, Jessica M. California Composers California Federations of Music Clubs, San Francisco, 1934. Quoted in A San Francisco Songster, 1849-1939. San Francisco: Works Progress Administration, 1939, p. 134

Pankey, Marilyn R. "Alfred Kelleher." 2004.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Come, Come, Ye Saints

Praise for the Lord #106

Words: William Clayton, 1846; alt. Joseph F. Green, 1960
Music: Neale's & Day's Revival Hymns, 1842

Sometimes a hymn so aptly describes the experience of a particular group that it becomes an unofficial anthem for generations to come. Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress" embodies the stern resolve of the early Reformation; "O for a thousand tongues to sing" captures the exuberant joy of the Wesleys. "Come, come ye saints" is the most famous hymn of the Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, because it documents their formative experience, the pilgrimage into the American west.

William Clayton (1814-1879) was a bookkeeper from Lancashire who became one of the earliest converts to the Latter Day Saints in Britain. In 1840 he left his native England for the "new Zion" of Nauvoo, Illinois. There he served in numerous capacities, including as scribe to Joseph Smith himself.("Clayton") He did not remain long; the Mormons had already been driven from New York, to Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois, and Smith's assassination in 1844 meant they could not long remain in the settled areas of the United States. Brigham Young, their new leader, planned to lead them from Nauvoo to the far West beginning in the spring of 1846, but events forced a departure in early February during a winter so cold that the Mississippi River froze over.(Pioneer Story) Young appointed William Clayton the official records-keeper for this group, an honor that was not without cost; Clayton was forced to leave behind one of his wives, Diantha, who was eight months pregnant.(Dahl, 516)

Into these hard circumstances, with unknown dangers ahead and known dangers behind, came one spot of good news: on April 15th, as the group was camped somewhere along Locust Creek near the Missouri-Iowa border, a letter came with the news that Diantha's child was delivered healthy.(Dahl, 517ff.) Clayton recorded in his journal,
This morning I composed a new song--"All is well." I feel to thank my heavenly father for my boy and pray that he will spare and preserve his life and that of his mother and so order it so that we may soon meet again.(Dahl, 518)
It is likely that Clayton had in mind both the tune and refrain of a folk hymn by the title "All is well;" there is another hymn with nearly the same tune but almost entirely different lyrics, beginning with the first line "What's this that steals, that steals upon my soul?" It is a hymn about a Christian joyfully greeting death, and contains the same refrain line: "All is well! All is well!" The earliest known appearance of the earlier hymn is in Revival Hymns by J. H. Neale, first published in 1842. (More on this below.) Paul Dahl believes that both Clayton and White drew from the same folk sources.(Dahl, 520)

Clayton's hymn quickly spread throughout the Latter Day Saints community, and was sung on a daily basis during their westward migration. It was first published in a Latter Day Saints hymnal in England in 1851, just five years after its composition.(Dahl, 524) Clayton's original lyrics in four stanzas are quite stirring, and one need not agree with his doctrines to share his sense of self-sacrifice and rejection of this present world. Certain references, however--especially the line, "We'll find the place which God for us prepared / Far away in the West"--make the original lyrics awkward for those of us who do not share the belief in a modern-day prophet or an earthly, physical Christian Zion. In 1960 Joseph F. Green, an editor with the Southern Baptists' Broadman Press, published a heavily rewritten version in Broadman Songs for Men, no. 2. This is the text used in Praise for the Lord, and given below.(Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs)

Stanza 1:
Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you the journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
We have a living Lord to guide,
And we can trust Him to provide;
Do this and joy your hearts will swell:
All is well! All is well!

There is a great old English word that is preserved for us in the language of the King James Version: "sojourner." The sojourner is not just a traveler, but a person who is permanently traveling. A traveler has a destination to reach, and a home to which he returns after a time. A sojourner has no such ends in view; he knows only that where he has been, and where he is now, is not his home. He has no permanent connections with a place.

Abraham described himself this way to his Hittite neighbors: "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you."(Genesis 23:4) Wealthy as he was, Abraham did not even own a plot of ground to bury his dead, and had to buy it from another. For the Bedouin-style herding economy of Abraham and his early descendants, it was necessary to be on the move to find pasture and water; it is perhaps significant that Jacob is remembered not for establishing a city, but a well.(John 4) When the descendants of Abraham returned to Canaan centuries later, most turned to a settled agricultural life; but the Feast of Booths kept alive the memory of their wanderings in the Sinai, and of their ancestors' sojourning.

In the Psalms we see this concept turned to the spiritual: "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with You, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were."(Psalm 39:12) When we look at the brevity of our lives, and the swiftness with which one generation passes away to be replaced by another, we learn the truth of this statement: "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away."(Psalm 90:10) We are all sojourners in this world, here for a little while but not to stay.

How do we respond to this knowledge? 1 Peter 1:17 tells us, "pass the time of your sojourning here in fear," such "fear" being a reverent attitude toward God and His word. Once again Abraham becomes our example:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.(Hebrews 11:8-10)
The background of this hymn is tied up in a journey--a physical journey toward an unknown goal, full of very real threats and hardships. Our spiritual sojourning is of the same sort. We do not know where it will lead us in this life; we do not know what trials we will face, or what price we will pay for our faith. But we do know that the God who guided Israel through the wilderness has promised to be with us as well.

The first stanza encourages us to be not afraid. Dozens of times in Scripture people are told, "Fear not!" And is it coincidence that this state of fear, and the divine reassurance, so often came right before God did something wonderful? "Fear not," Israel, God will part the Red Sea before you. "Fear not," Joshua, and Gideon, and many other leaders, because God will give you victory. "Fear not," Mary, because God will work His greatest wonder through you. "Fear not," disciples, it is the resurrected Lord. When our spirits are sapped by fears, let us remember Moses' encouraging words at the beginning of the Exodus, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today!"(Exodus 14:13)

The hymn tells us not only "be not afraid," but to be joyful as well! James (who certainly saw his share of persecution and fears) said, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."(James 1:2-3) Sometimes we are put in bad situations that really are beyond our control. But in another sense, we always have control of one thing: our response. If we can look at a bad situation and ask, "What spiritual lesson can I learn? How can I give glory to God through my actions?," then we still have a path to victory.

Sometimes a bad situation may arise just in order to test us and to strengthen our faith; on the other hand, sometimes a bad situation arises solely out of the meanness of another person. But I can still choose to glorify God through my actions, and the spiritual reward of having done right is a greater comfort than any revenge could offer. As Joseph said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."(Genesis 50:20) And especially if we are persecuted by another for the sake of our desire to follow Christ, we should remember the example of the apostles, "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name."(Acts 5:41)

Stanza 2:
The world of care is with us every day,
Let it not this obscure;
Here we can serve the Master on the way,
And in Him be secure.
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take;
Our God will never us forsake;
And so our song no fear can quell:
All is well! All is well!

The Greek word for "care" used in the New Testament is μέριμνα (merimna), which has an interesting derivation: the root word is μερίζω (merizō), a verb meaning "to draw in different directions."(Thayer, 400) That sounds exactly like my daily life, and perhaps it sounds like yours. This is the word used in the Parable of the Sower, describing the seed that fell among thorns: "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word, and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful."(Matthew 13:22) As this stanza says, care can obscure our vision of our true mission.

Notice that the person in this parable didn't just ignore the Word, as did the one who was like the hardened pathway; this person became unfruitful, which suggests that the seed took root, developed into a plant, and began the process of fruit-bearing. Its growth was stunted, however, because of competition from the weeds that sapped the water and nutrients from the same soil. It didn't die, but it never became what it should have been. Spiritually speaking, this person could be struggling along for years, trying to serve God but not with a whole heart, and feeling miserable about it all the while.

There are many, many cares in this world, and there seem to be more all the time. We need to examine ourselves frequently and see where we are spending our best time and effort, asking the question, "Does this give glory to God?" Fortunately, as long as that spiritual plant is alive, it can be brought back to healthy fruit-bearing. But we may have to do some weeding! Thankfully we are not alone in this struggle; Peter told us, "Cast all your care upon Him; for He cares for you."(1 Peter 5:7) Interestingly, the verb used to describe God's "care" is a different word from the one mentioned above; God is not pulled in different directions by all His activities. It is impossible to distract the Omniscient, or to overwhelm the Omnipotent. Let us learn to give up our cares to Him; He is far better able to deal with them.

In addition to casting aside worry and care, we are also exhorted in this stanza to get back into action for the cause of Christ. The phrase "gird up your loins" is not one we encounter outside Scripture today, but has a simple meaning if we examine its background. The long, loose robes worn by men in the Bible lands were comfortable for the hot climate, but inconvenient for hard work or running. To avoid tripping on his own robe, and to keep it from flapping about, a man would "gird up the loins" by pulling up his robe and fastening a belt or "girdle" around it.(Barnes, 281ff.) "Gird up the loins" thus became a common expression to describe readiness for action. Scripture records two occasions of Elisha telling someone to "Gird up your loins, . . . and go," to carry out the prophet's orders.(2 Kings 4:29, 9:1)

God used this expression in a spiritual sense when He commissioned Jeremiah's ministry by saying, "gird up your loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command you."(Jeremiah 1:17) Peter touches on this image as well, speaking to Christians:
Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.(1 Peter 1:13)
The style of clothing has changed, but the message has not. Like any smart strategist, the devil prefers to have his enemies distracted, disorganized, and discouraged. This hymn reminds us that we often need to take an assessment of ourselves, and get our minds set again for action as we turn back to the daily fight.

Stanza 3:
We'll find the rest which God for us prepared,
When at last He will call;
Where none will come to hurt or make afraid,
He will reign over all.
We will make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
O how we'll make the chorus swell:
All is well! All is well!

Clayton's original text spoke here of "the place which God for us prepared / Far away in the West," but Joseph Green's revision invokes instead the "Sabbath rest" of the faithful spoken of in the 4th chapter of Hebrews. After discussing the Israelites during Exodus who were unable to enjoy God's intended blessings because of their disobedience, the Hebrews writer makes a fascinating point from Psalm 95, which also references those events:
For we who have believed enter that rest, as He has said, "As I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,'"[Psalm 95:11] although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works."[Genesis 2:2] And again in this passage He said, "They shall not enter My rest."

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again He appoints a certain day, "Today," saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.(Hebrews 4:3-11)
When I was a little boy I could hardly imagine wanting to rest. I am told that I once complained of my grandmother's house that, "There's nothing to do here but to watch the dog sleep." What would we give now, as adults, to go back and spend just one afternoon in that kind of peaceful retreat? We don't know everything about heaven, but we know that it is a place of peace and wholeness, where there is no regret about yesterday or worry about tomorrow. And if we are sojourners in this world, without a permanent home, we know that heaven is a place where we will really be at home, finally.

During the years that my family lived in Nashville, Tennessee, we frequently made the 12-hour drive back to Oklahoma and Texas to visit family. These were long, long trips, and though the countryside is beautiful, after a few years we knew every turn in the road and every tree. I remember that when we would get through Memphis heading home to Nashville, with a little under 200 miles to go, we were less and less likely to stop. Part of the reason, of course, is that there are precious few places to stop on that road! But even more compelling was the desire to just get home. "Do you want to stop for supper?" "No, let's keep going. Let's get home." How much better will our Christian lives be, if we learn to think that way about this world, and about heaven? Let's keep going. Let's get home.

About the music:

ALL IS WELL is a fine old folk tune, with all the catchiness and oddity that implies; it has a metrical identity crisis, with phrases in 4/4 time bumping up against the 3/4 refrain line, "All is well! All is well!" The rendition given in Praise for the Lord is that found in Hymns: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (see Dahl's article, page 523), with the meter changing between phrases. But there have been other attempts to tame this unruly melody. In the score provided by, the editor gave up and didn't provide a time signature at all. Another earlier Latter Day Saints version keeps the meter 3/4 throughout and places fermatas over the 4th and 10th notes of the 1st and 3rd phrases--a clever dodge that avoids the problem.

As mentioned before, there was another version of "All is well!" with completely different lyrics but essentially the same tune. This hymn, beginning with the line "What's this, what's this, that steals upon my soul?," is attributed to J. T. White in the 1844 Sacred Harp. It is a three-voice hymn, and appeared in later editions of Walker's Southern Harmony. (N.B. The melody is in the tenor, the middle voice.) In this version the metrical weirdness is straightened out by dropping beats and adding pickup notes, allowing it to stay in 4/4 time. I have enjoyed singing this version with Sacred Harp groups, but the meter is somewhat unconvincing if you know the other versions!

Though the 1835 Southern Harmony is sometimes given as the earliest appearance of that hymn, it was not added until later editions.(Eskew, 142) The earliest instance, predating its inclusion in the Sacred Harp, was in Revival Hymns (Boston: H. Wood, 1842). I had the pleasure of examining a copy of this little volume at the Bowld Music Library of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Special thanks to Aaron Kuglin, a student employee who found this title for me--it was still in processing and not yet shelved in the rare books room--and on a weekend, no less!) It is a tiny little paperback of 71 pages, 16 centimeters tall, and cheaply printed; it amazes me that it has survived 170 years.

The full title is instructive: Revival hymns: principally selected by the Rev. R. H. Neale: set to some of the most familiar and useful revival tunes, many of which have never before been published, arr. and newly harmonized by H. W. Day. The preface notes that these are "as they were originally sung at the meetings of the Rev. Mr. Knapp." Neale was minister at the First Baptist Church in Boston, where Jacob Knapp held a series of evangelistic meetings.(Music & Richardson, 309)

From Boston to the Sacred Harp, and to the Mormon frontier, is a journey far greater than the miles on a map, and it is striking that these instances were only two years apart. But the connection to Jacob Knapp provides the key: he was one of the foremost Baptist preachers of the Second Great Awakening, and led revivals in the eastern U.S. cities a generation before the better known urban revivalism of Dwight Moody and others.(Hammond, 10ff.)

H. W. Day, who presumably arranged our earliest recorded instance of ALL IS WELL, was a Boston music publisher, teacher, and editor of the American Journal of Music and Musical Visitor. He is most famous for a very public feud with Lowell Mason which resulted in the latter's firing by the Boston School Committee (Mason was later reinstated, and Day came off the worse for the encounter).(Mark, 48) How well he came out in his wrestling match with this hymn tune, I leave for the reader to decide. The irregularities of barring (in particular, the end of the 1st staff and beginning of the 2nd) are as found in the original:

The origin of these different versions of the hymn tune, as Dahl suggests, is most likely from some common ancestor now lost to us. Dahl claims the tune is descended from the English tune "Good morning [or 'morrow'], Gossip Joan," which has a Virginia cousin in "Good morning, neighbor Jones."(Dahl, 520) Below is a version of "Gossip Joan" that shows the resemblance, but it is really just in the middle section; measures 5-10 of "Gossip Joan" correspond roughly to the 5th and 6th lines of the hymn.

Tune from
GIF rendered by JC's ABC Tune Finder


"Clayton, William." The Joseph Smith Papers

"Nauvoo, Illinois: 1839-1846." The Pioneer Story. Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Dahl, Paul E. "'All is well . . . ': the story of the 'hymn that went around the world.'" BYU Studies 21:4 (Fall 1981), 515-527.

"Come, come ye saints." Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Glen Arm, MD: Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren.

Thayer, Joseph Henry. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. New York: American Book Company, 1889.

Barnes, Charles Allen. Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Eaton & Mains, 1900.

Eskey, Harry. "William Walker's Southern Harmony: its basic editions." Latin American Music Review 7:2 (Autumn-Winter 1986), pp. 137-148.

Music, David W., and Paul Akers Richardson. I Will Sing the Wondrous Story: A History of Baptist Hymnody in North America. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2008.

Mark, Michael L. A Concise History of American Music Education. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

Hammond, Paul. "From Calvinism to Arminianism: Baptists and the Second Great Awakening, 1800-1835." Colloquium on Baptist Church Music, Baylor University Center for Christian Music Studies, 24-25 September 2009.