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06.04 “Go to Dark Gethsemane”

Go to dark Gethsemane,

Ye that feel the tempter’s power;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see,

Watch with Him one bitter hour.

Turn not from His griefs away;

Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

This sharing is not the usual excerpt from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan, but rather, a personal reflection on this song that pertains to Good Friday. In light of the theme of this newsletter – spiritual lethargy – the writer of this hymn has much to encourage us to put off our fatigue and procrastination. He urges us to consider the agony of Christ as He approached the Cross, and how He suffered greatly for us.

If at this point you still have no idea on how to battle spiritual lethargy, I ask you to picture this in your mind – imagine Christ in Gethsemane, praying, and sweating as it were great drops of blood. Was Christ relaxing? Certainly not! Do you then think that you can get rid of spiritual lethargy without a fight? Certainly not! It is a struggle, a battle, an intense fight against the temptation to be sluggish. If you are determined to get rid of this sin that often besets us, and wastes away the most precious hours of our time, then we must be ready for a fight. We must “watch and pray” – as Christ asked of the disciples to do as He was in great agony.

As though expecting many to do so, the writer of the hymn cautions us “turn not from his griefs away” – so many of us turn away from this fight! We cannot battle with our slothfulness, our lethargy, or laziness simply because we are not ready to fight! And what is the solution to this problem? It is but one – to pray, and to ask God for strength to fight. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). Here, Christ tells us to ask for what we want, according to His will. So we must ask, and it will certainly be given to us.

The only question remaining is… do you have such a desire? Do you have the desire to rid yourself of spiritual lethargy? We must hate sin, and hate sin so greatly, that nothing will stop us from casting it aside – only with such a heart will we be ready to fight against sin, and fight against spiritual lethargy. Keep praying! 

(Lyrics of Go to Dark Gethsemane by James Montgomery; article written by Joan Loo)

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05.05 Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

(This hymn was written in 1864)

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:9)

Emily Elliott was born south of London, in the little holiday town of Brighton on the English Channel, in 1836. Her father, Edward Elliott, was pastor of St. Mark’s Church there. His invalid aunt – Charlotte Elliott, well-known hymnist and the author of the invitational hymn “Just As I Am” – lived nearby.

While working with children in the church choir and the local parish school, Emily, then in her late twenties, wanted to use the Christmas season to teach them about the entire life and mission of the Saviour. As she studied Luke 2:7, she wrote about this hymn. The first and second verses speak of our Lord’s birth, but the third verse describes His life as an itinerate preacher. The next stanza describes His death on Calvary, and the last verse proclaims His Second Coming.

Emily had her hymn privately printed, and it was first performed in her father’s church during the Christmas season of 1864. Six years later, she included it in a magazine she edited called Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor.

Several years later, Emily inserted this carol into her book of poems and hymns entitled Chimes for Daily Service. “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” first appeared in the United States in The Sunday School Hymnal, published in Boston in 1871.

Emily devoted her life to Sunday school work, to ministering to the down and out in Brighton’s rescue missions, and to sharing the message of Christ through poems, hymns, and the printed page. Another of her carols was widely used for many years during the Christmas season, though it isn’t well-known today. The words are ideally suited for the children Emily so loved. This carol, too, encompasses our Lord’s entire life and mission.

(An exerpt from Then Sings My Soul, written by Robert J. Morgan)

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01.03 The Doxology (“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow”)

Before Charles Wesley or Issac Watts, there was Thomas Ken, who has been called “England’s first hymnist.” He was born in 1637 in Little Berkhampstead on the fringes of greater London. When his parents died, he was raised by his half sister and her husband, who enrolled him in Winchester College, a historic boys’ school. Thomas was later ordained to the ministry and returned to Winchester as a chaplain.

To encourage the devotional habits of the boys, Thomas wrote three hymns in 1674. This was revolutionary because English hymns had not yet appeared; only the Psalms were sung in public worship. Ken suggested the boys use the hymns privately in their rooms. One hymn was to be sung upon waking, another at bed tie, and a third at midnight if sleep didn’t come. All three songs ended with the common stanza, [namely the Doxology.]

In 1680, Thomas was appointed chaplain to England’s King Charless II. It was a thankless job, as Charles kept a variety of mistresses. Once the king asked to lodge a mistress in the chaplain’s residence. Thomas rebuked him, saying, “Not for the King’s Kingdom!” Afterward the king referred to him as “that little man who refused lodging to poor Nellie.”

During the reign of the next king, James II, Thomas, by now a bishop, was sent to the Tower of London (a prison) for his Protestant convictions. After his release, Thomas retired to the home of a wealthy friend, where he died on March 11, 1711. He was buried at sunrise, and the “Doxology” was sung at his funeral.

(An excerpt from Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul, pg 111)