February 2013


John Needham (d. circa 1786)

The Hymn

  1. Awake, my tongue, thy tribute bring
    To Him Who gave Thee power to sing;
    Praise Him Who is all praise above,
    The source of wisdom and of love.
  2. How vast His knowledge, how profound!
    A deep where all our thoughts are drowned;
    The stars He numbers, and their names
    He gives to all those heavenly flames.
  3. Through each bright world above, behold
    Ten thousand thousand charms unfold;
    Earth, air, and mighty seas combine
    To speak His wisdom all divine.
  4. But in redemption, O what grace!
    Its wonders, O what thought can trace!
    Here, wisdom shines forever bright;
    Praise Him, my soul, with sweet delight.

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas included in our study hymnal are indicated with bold print.

Scriptural Connection

In Exodus 4, verse 11, the Almighty gives a reminder to Moses in the midst of the servant’s “call” experience, that it is God who has made even the mouth and tongue of man. So it is that man’s mouth should say what it is that God Almighty has given him to say. In response to this, we find this ancient hymn that teaches us to praise the One who made our lips.

What does it mean?

This song written some 200 years ago is one which calls the worshiper to the act of righteous praise. In ancient fashion we have a passion for the giving of praise where praise is due. In a way the archaic disposition of the song is a bit of a drawback for the song. Perhaps it is this reason that more hymn collectors pass this selection over than choose to include it in their volumes. One thing that causes me to struggle with this one is the way the poet approaches God from a seemingly negative side in order to bring us to the throne of glory.

Even so, there are a few phrases that bring us cause to really hear the heart of the poet. He insists that “ten thousand thousand charms unfold.” We are reminded of the vastness of the Creator. Constant images of depth and vast expanse turn our minds to the greatness of God. Much like more modern song writers say in today’s pop culture – “Our God is an awesome God . . .” or “How great is our God . . .” In the late eighteenth century, to examine the vastness of God would turn our attention to how inadequate we are when standing in His presence. And even then, as inadequate as we find ourselves to be, we must use the tongue that God has placed in us for its greatest activity—praise of God.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

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Translated from German (c. 1800) by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

Also included in The Broadman Hymnal, 1940 edition, Broadman Press, Nashville, #7; Voice of Praise, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1947, #127; The Baptist Hymnal, 1975 edition, Convention Press, Nashville, #44; 1991 edition, Convention Press, Nashville, #221; 2008 edition, LifeWay, Nashville, #141; Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1951, #1 (entitled “May Jesus Christ Be Praised”); Favorite Hymns of Praise, Tabernacle, Chicago, 1967, #1; The Hymnal for Worship & Praise, Word, Waco, 1986, #87; The Celebration Hymnal, Word, Waco, 1997, #215.

As you can tell by a simple glance, the poem which provides the words for this hymn is much lengthier than provided for in most hymnals. Some more recent hymnals credit a separate third verse (“Ye nations of mankind, In this your concord find:/May Jesus Christ be praised!/Let all the earth around Ring joyous with the sound:/May Jesus Christ be praised!”) to Robert Bridges when he included the hymn in an 1899 hymnal. Hymnal editors have included various stanzas from the original as well: Broadman and VoP – 1, 5, ll. 1&2 of 14 + ll. 3&4 of 10, & 15 (with minor changes to line 3); BH 1975, 1991, & 2008 – 1, 10, Bridges above, 14; Inspiring Hymns and Favorite Hymns – 1, 9, 5, ll. 1&2 of 14 + ll. 3&4 of 10, 15; The Hymnal – 1, 5, 10, Bridges above, 13, 15; Celebration – 1, 10, Bridges above, 15.

The Hymn

  1. When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  2. When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  3. Whene’er the sweet church bell peals over hill and dell,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    O hark to what it sings, as joyously it rings,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  4. My tongue shall never tire of chanting with the choir,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    This song of sacred joy, it never seems to cloy,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  5. Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  6. To God, the Word, on high, the host of angels cry,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let mortals, too, upraise their voice in hymns of praise,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  7. Be this at meals your grace, in every time and place;
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Be this, when day is past, of all your thoughts the last
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  8. When mirth for music longs, this is my song of songs:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evening shadows fall, this rings my curfew call,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  9. When sleep her balm denies, my silent spirit sighs,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evil thoughts molest, with this I shield my breast,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  10. The night becomes as day when from the heart we say:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  11. No lovelier antiphon in all high Heav’n is known
    Than, Jesus Christ be praised!
    There to the eternal Word the eternal psalm is heard:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  12. Let all the earth around ring joyous with the sound:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    In Heaven’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  13. Sing, suns and stars of space, sing, ye that see His face,
    Sing, Jesus Christ be praised!
    God’s whole creation o’er, for aye and evermore
    Shall Jesus Christ be praised!
  14. In Heav’n’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let earth, and sea and sky from depth to height reply,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  15. Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Sing this eternal song through all the ages long:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas included in our study hymnal are indicated with bold print.

Scriptural Connection

There are a variety of Psalms offered as connections to the Scripture for this hymn. One hymnal suggests Revelation 5 as a connection because of the praise to Christ offered in both the Bible passage and the hymn. One expert also turned us to Romans 9:5 in that verse’s praise of Christ as God over all. Any of these would be appropriate. I would lean more toward the New Testament connections because of the refrain of the hymn: “May Jesus Christ be praised!”

What does it mean?

This particular hymn is directly a call to praise Christ. All of the stanzas include the refrain over and over to praise Jesus Christ. The interspersed lines give us the reasons and the timing to do such praise. At work, at prayer, in happy occasions and fearful ones. Always run to Jesus (“to Jesus I repair”) in all occasions and in every moment and as you do so give Him praise.

This hymn, while unfamiliar to me from my developmental years, has quite a respect among hymnists—and well it should. This is a hymn, regardless of the stanzas chosen to sing, which points all worshipers to the One who is worthy of our praise. We can praise Him no matter the time of day, the activity in which we are engaged, or the circumstances which touch our lives.

“May Jesus Christ be praised!”

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

Words by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

The Hymn

  1. Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
    Christ, the true, the only Light,
    Sun of Righteousness, arise,
    Triumph o’er the shades of night;
    Dayspring from on high, be near;
    Day-star, in my heart appear.
  2. Dark and cheerless is the morn
    Unaccompanied by Thee;
    Joyless is the day’s return
    Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
    Till they inward light impart,
    Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
  3. Visit then this soul of mine,
    Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
    Fill me, Radiancy divine,
    Scatter all my unbelief;
    More and more Thyself display,
    Shining to the perfect day.

(Hymn words accessed at Hymn Books .com)

Scriptural Connection

Since Wesley is pointing worshipers to contemplate the splendor of the Second Coming of Christ, one of the best connections to make with this hymn can be found in the final chapter of the Bible—Revelation 22. Particularly, I would focus on verses toward the latter part of the chapter (vv. 6-17). Here we see the announcement of the Second Coming, accompanied closely by the cry of the Church—“Come” and “Come quickly.” This passage is at the heart of this worship which focuses on the Christ.

What does it mean?

At this point in our hymnal we begin seeing a move from hymns that praise God the Father/Creator, to those which exalt the Son our Savior. Here is a prime example of such a hymn; and again it flows from the pen of the great hymn-writer Charles Wesley. This particular hymn brings to mind either the Ascension or the Second Coming. While the text of the hymn leads one to focus on the latter, the picture of the disciples standing awestruck at the moment when Christ was received into Heaven flashes to mind (see Acts 1:9-11).

There are a few terms that might visit the worshiper with difficulty in a modern day (the hymn is some 200 years old after all). Many will be names used to describe Jesus. He is named the “Sun of Righteousness,” “Dayspring,” and “Daystar” all in the first verse. Each of these descriptive titles remind us of Revelation descriptors that teach us that there is no need for sun, moon, or stars when the Son is present, for He is the eternal Light of Heavenly places. In the second stanza, the poet calls on the “Radiancy Divine” to fill him. This again points us to the “Radiant One,” who is Jesus Christ.

Another perhaps difficult portion of the hymn is the rather dismal approach in the second verse. Pointing out all of the shortcomings of the worshiper would seem counterproductive when one is trying to lift spirits up to the heavenlies, but this is Wesley’s point from the beginning. Our dire need to encounter the glory of Christ is off-set by Him. His splendor stands in drastic contrast to our sad existence. What better reason than our pitiful joylessness to allow the magnificence of Christ to enter in?

The final stanza of this little song is simply a prayer to request that Christ’s spectacular presence be the one influencing factor in the life of the Christian. Let Jesus be more evident in the life of the singer with each passing day until finally, in that day of His Second Coming, they are together forever.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.