It was a long time ago, 1982 if my memory serves me well, my minister at a Liverpool Church contacted me in a panic. “I can’t find a hymn for it!” was the cry. And honestly, he had a challenge. He could not find a hymn for the passage Genesis 1 (The very start of the Holy Bible). The story would be quite different now!
Thanks to modern technology I would just type in those very first few words of the old testament into Google on the Internet and hey presto you will find those immortal words in at least one modern hymn or song.
So I hunted through my hymn books and I could not find one hymn, one chorus, one song, nor one bit of humble poetry. My library was not extensive as I have now but it took a lot of time to find nothing!
Therefore, there was only one thing to do, but write something new. That is the words and music for a new song ‘In the beginning, God made heaven and earth’. Below for brevity is the first verse and chorus, It is slightly modified and now the chorus stays the same throughout the whole of the song.
In the beginning, God made heaven and earth. And the earth was without form, Twas void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved all around.
And God said, Let there be light: and God said Let there be night
and God said Let there be day
And it was so
It was only recently, that I discovered that there is at least one other hymn written well before this and of course it is in a very well known hymn book. You all should know it. The Scottish Psalter and Church Hymnary (revised). You will all know that I like playing all hymns. Those that are ancient/more recent and those that are modern/popular. As one minister in South West Scotland in his sermons said, the great majority of hymn tunes were named after the village or town where the hymn was written and those hymns were sung and some danced to as pop songs locally.
Below is the text of the Bible that was set to music from the Psalter for Genisis 1 and this text represents verses 1 &2 (there are 8 others) and can be sung to Amazing Grace
Paraphrase: Let heav’n arise, Let earth appear
Let heav’n arise, Let earth appear, said the Almighty Lord: The heav’n arose, the earth appear’d, at his creating word.
Thick darkness brooded o’er the deep: God said, ‘Let there be light:’ The light shone forth with smiling ray, and scattered ancient night.
Note: You may have noticed in my composition I used the word ‘Twas’, – that is ‘it was’ the only word that fitted to the melody in my music!
In the Cross of Christ I Glory (Colossians 1:11-20 (KJV))
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Sir John Bowring (17 October 1792 – 23 November 1872) wrote amongst many other hymns ‘In the Cross of Christ I Glory’. He was an English political economist, MP for Kilmarnock Burghs (Ayr, Kilmarnock, Dumbarton, Renfrew and Port Glasgow), traveller, writer, literary translator, polyglot, and the fourth Governor of Hong Kong.
Bowring married twice. Firstly by his wife, Maria (1793/4–1858), whom he married in 1818 after moving to London, He had five sons and four daughters (Maria, John, Frederick, Lewin, Edgar, Charles, Edith, Emily, and Gertrude). Maria died in September 1858, a victim of the arsenic poisoning of the bread supply. That is in Hong Kongduring the Second Opium War. An Opium War that was sparked by Sir John her husband.
Secondly to Deborah Castle (1816–1902), in 1860. Sadly, they had no children. Deborah, became Lady Bowring and died in Exeter in July 1902
John Bowring wrote the words of this great hymn and at least 82 others. He was a hard worker and a brilliant man who had a special gift for languages. He is reputed to have learned a hundred different languages during his lifetime. Because of his brilliance with languages, the British government appointed him to a number of jobs. His career required that he travelled throughout Europe as well as to Syria and even Siam (That is modern Thailand). He learned Chinese and served as the British governor of Hong Kong in the middle of the 19th Century.
Some people say that Bowring was inspired to write “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” when he visited Macao. Its is a Portuguese colony near Hong Kong (in 1999 Portugal relinquished their control and gave the colony back to China)and he had a vision of a great bronze cross that towered over the ruins. That is the ruins of a cathedral. One that had been destroyed by a typhoon. Whatever the inspiration this hymn celebrates the cross of Jesus. Along with many others, it is a hymn that has been popular since it was first published in 1825. That is nearly two centuries ago.
In the Cross of Christ, I Glory (Colossians 1:11-20) set to tune = Love Divine Ch4 519 24th November 2019 by Charles Litster
1 In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time; all the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’ertake me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy, never shall the cross forsake me.
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.
2 When the sun of bliss is beaming light and love upon my way, from the cross the radiance streaming
adds more luster to the day.
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified;
peace is there that knows no measure,
joys that through all time abide.
3 When the sun of bliss is beaming light and love upon my way, from the cross the radiance streaming adds more luster to the day.
In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime
Psalm 67: A paraphrase – Lord Bless and pity us (Church Hymnary 4 – CH4 45) Set to tune = CH4 594 Diademata (Crown him with many crowns) by Charles Litster
Lord, bless and pity us, shine on us with your face: that your way may be known on earth, all nations know your grace. Let people praise you, Lord; let all the people praise. Oh, let the nations all be glad, in songs their voices raise:
You’ll justly people judge, on earth rule nations all. Let people praise you, Lord; let them praise you, both great and small. The earth her fruit shall yield, our God shall blessing send. God shall us bless; all shall him fear unto earth’s utmost end.
I found this the other day, the source is the Trinity Psalter Hymnal – Hymn 553
I have set it to a different tune, that is ‘All things bright and beautiful’. It is a fantastic tune and the words are perfect. For that reason, at the end of this version, I return to the refrain of that great hymn.
1 Sing to the Lord of harvest,
sing songs of love and praise;
with joyful hearts and voices
your alleluias raise!
By him the rolling seasons
in fruitful order move;
sing to the Lord of harvest
a song of happy love.
2 By him the clouds drop fatness,
the deserts bloom and spring,
the hills leap up in gladness,
the valleys laugh and sing.
He filleth with his fullness
all things with large increase;
he crowns the year with goodness,
with plenty, and with peace.
3 Heap on his sacred altar
the gifts his goodness gave,
The golden sheaves of harvest,
the souls Christ died to save.
Your hearts lay down before him
when at his feet you fall,
and with your lives adore him
who gave his life for all.
4 To God the gracious Father,
who made us “very good,”
to Christ, who, when we wandered,
restored us with his blood,
and to the Holy Spirit,
who doth upon us pour
his blessed dews and sunshine,
be praise forevermore.
5 All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
These are the words that I needed from Rock of Ages Cleft for Me.
That is verses 2 and 3…
“Not the labour of my hands Can fulfil Thy law’s demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All could never sin erase, Thou must save, and save by grace.
Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace: Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die.”
If you look at Church Hymnary 4 CH4 hymn 554 you will find it is set to the tune Petra. I must say not one of my favourite tunes – but the Late Rev. Bob White always reminded me that these tunes were the pop songs of the day. Sadly one of a set of tunes that I struggle to look at as a pop song. For me, it sounds like a dirge. Other people may well enjoy, but it is not in my top 10.
As usual, I sent an email to our choir members. I mentioned that words also fit the tune for the carol ‘As with Gladness men of old’. Secretly, I was hoping this would be ok.
Quickly, I received an email back – we know the tune. ‘Oh dear’, I thought. Nothing for it, but I will try and rearrange Petra, perhaps break the chords or add a variation in the bass.
Today I arrived at church for the choir practice. Played the tune Petra, it was not recognised, by anyone. Nothing to do with the arrangement! I then checked the CH3 hymnary and the tune was Petra. – it was there again! Only, one more source was left… Mission Praise. There I found the tune Toplady and that was a perfect match. Do have a look at Mission Praise MP 582 (ii). To my mind much superior to Petra. Had to transpose by two semitones – but the organ magically did all that for me!
I am preparing for a prayer meeting tonight and looking for something to read before prayer. On that note, Hebrews 11 comes to mind. So here goes…
1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper (comely – pleasant to look at) child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again:
If you are observant you will notice that I have missed something. And yes you are right. It is a final couple of verses in Hebrews 11. These should be here to provide balance and the full story about faith.
and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect).
Abridged version Come, ye faithful, raise the strain (7,6,7,6, D) Tune Ellacombe Hosanna Loud Hosanna CH4 367 … Translated by John Mason Neale, born in Conduit Street, London, on Jan. 24, 1818. Written by John of Damascus, St. The last but one of the Fathers of the Greek Church, and the greatest of her poets. Words set to Ellacombe by Charles Litster April 2019.
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness; God has– brought his Israel in-to.. joy from sadness; loosed from Pharaoh’s bit-ter.. yoke Jacob’s sons and dau-ght-ers; He let them pass with feet not wet through th-e Red Sea waters.
“Alleluia!” now we do cry to ou-r King immortal, who, tri-umph-antl-y did burst the bars of the to-mb’s dark portal; “Alleluia!” with the So-on…, (Son) We praise God the Father now, “Alleluia!” yet aga-in to the Spirit raising.
I had a slight challenge, the organ I play on at church as a lovely feature. That is at a flick of a switch the key for any piece of music can be moved up or down. In this case, it needed to go down. This feature is really great and it does the job fantastically.
There I was very happy that the issue had been resolved and then I realised, I may have missed something. Therefore, I asked the question. where are we singing this hymn? And I had forgotten!
It was not in our church. Of course, our church organ is not portable.
Therefore, earlier today I set about transposing the sheet music, in this case to the key of C from E flat. This makes it easier to play and sing. In this case, I have not re-arranged, but have made some minor changes for ease of reading. Fairest Lord Jesus in the key of C
The answer, of course, is Crimond. That is a village in the northeast of Scotland. It is nine miles northwest of Peterhead and just over two miles from the coast.
The challenge I have is not with the time but the tune.
Not many people know that the tunes to hymns (songs) are named after the community and/or Kirk (Church) that they were written in.
The Late Rev Bob White did say in his sermons that these tunes were pop songs of the day. Ever since the age of ten, I have wanted to make Crimond a pop song. I must admit that this was much to the annoyance of my classically trained music teacher. From memory, I think her reaction was…
“If you really must Charles, but that is not as it is written and you have an exam to pass”
So what is all the fuss about one tune? Simply it was written by Jessie Seymour Irvine (born 1836 – died 1887). She was the daughter of a Church of Scotland minister who served at Dunottar, Peterhead, and Crimond, Scotland. Jessie is referred to by Ian Campbell Bradley in his 1997 book Abide with Me.
The crunch is that the song ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ is set to that tune. As such it is well known and often sung at funerals and weddings. Words were written by Francis Rous, who was born at Halton, Cornwall, in 1579, and educated at Oxford. His career the legal profession, and M.P. He took the words from the Bible – Psalm 23 and set it to verse. Here are the lyrics…