Spiritual Songs

Light of those whose dreary dwelling

Borders on the shades of death,

Come, and by thy love’s revealing

Dissipate the clouds beneath:

The new heaven and earth’s Creator,

In our deepest darkness rise,

Scattering all the night of nature,

Pouring eye-sight on our eyes.

 

Still we wait for thy appearing,

Life and joy thy beams impart,

Chasing all our fears, and cheering

Every poor benighted heart.

Come, and manifest the favour

God hath for our ransom’d race;

Come, thou universal Saviour,

Come, and bring the gospel-grace.

 

Save us in thy great compassion,

O thou mild pacific Prince,

Give the knowledge of salvation,

Give the pardon of our sins;

By thine all-redeeming merit

Every burden’d soul release,

Every weary wandring spirit

Guide into thy perfect peace.

 

Published in Charles Wesley’s Hymns on the Nativity (1745), this Advent text follows immediately after the better-known “Come, thou long-expected Jesus”. Both hymns proclaim the Advent message through the lens of Wesley’s characteristic Arminianism, while they also share an approach that focuses on establishing contrasts. Unlike “Come, thou long-expected Jesus”, where the most striking contrast is within a single line – “Born a child and yet a king” – here, Wesley builds a series of related contrasts into the first verse. Strikingly, the oppressive gloom experienced by those waiting faithfully is dispersed not by a show of might, but by the revelation of God’s loving intention to His creation.

The regular balance between darkness and light in the first verse gradually gives way to a fuller and clearer vision in the second, as the outpouring of love is revealed in the person of Christ, the “universal Saviour”. Wesley thus emphasises that the “ransomed race” is all humanity: the Saviour comes to each and every “benighted soul” that seeks Him amidst their personal darkness. The final verse is an unusual conclusion to an Advent hymn; instead of asserting the coming reign in terms of power and might, it focuses instead on Christ heralding a kingdom of peace, in which weary souls will find forgiveness, comfort, and rest. Taken as a whole, the hymn draws on traditional Advent imagery of light and darkness, but also presents a view of the coming kingdom in which triumphalism, to which hymns on the Second Coming are sometimes prone, is entirely absent.

2018-09-29T12:56:43+00:00 November 2016 Articles|