Monday, 18 August 2014

For My Sake and the Gospel's Go

“For My sake, and the Gospel’s, go
And tell redemption’s story”;
His heralds answer, “Be it so,
And Thine, Lord, all the glory!”
They preach His birth, His life, His cross,
The love of His atonement,
For Whom they count the world but loss,
His Easter, His enthronement.

Hark, hark, the trump of jubilee
Proclaims to every nation,
From pole to pole, by land and sea,
Glad tidings of salvation;
As nearer draws the day of doom,
While still the battle rages,
The heav’nly Dayspring through the gloom
Breaks on the night of ages.

Still on and on the anthems spread
Of alleluia voices,
In concert with the holy dead
The warrior church rejoices;
Their snow white robes are washed in blood,
Their golden harps are ringing;
Earth and the paradise of God
One triumph song are singing.

He comes, Whose advent trumpet drowns
The last of time’s evangels,
Emmanuel crowned with many crowns,
The Lord of saints and angels;
O Life, Light, Love, the great I AM,
Triune, Who changest never,
The throne of God and of the Lamb
Is Thine, and Thine forever.

The tune for this is by Arthur Sullivan, better known for his work with William Schwenk Gilbert's musicals. And what a rousing, sturring tune it is! This is Victorian hymnody at its best.

An Anglican bishop once said to a boy that "You must sing as though you were thanking God for giving us such a wonderful Queen as Victoria."  There is a sense that this hymn is as much about British Imperialism as it is about the spread of the Gospel. Nevertheless, while there are legitmate criticisms that can be made about the British Empire, it did enable the spread of the Gospel to heathen lands. For all the abuses and racism, the British Empire was still a noble and Christian insitution.

This is an hymn about the church and her mission to the nations, a rich theme that is rarely seen in the thematically narrow songs of modern worship. How often do we sing about th triumph of the church militant?

When I was a dispensationalist, I struggled theologically a bit with this hymn, despite rather liking it. The idea of the church being triumphant does not fit all that easily wuth the pessimism ingrained in dispensationalism. Now that I have come to a richer ecclesiology, I feel able to sing thus hymn (Protestant as it is) all the more heartily.

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