Forgotten Verses #9: Hark! The Herald Angels Song

During his lifetime, Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. One of his best-known, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” was composed in 1739. The first three verses are quite familiar:

1. Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain. Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

2. Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

3. Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

There is plenty of rich theology in those first three verses. But there is even more in verses four and five. How many Christmas carols discuss the protoevangelium—the first proclamation of the Gospel, in Genesis 3:15, where it is promised that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head?

4. Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Verse 5 continues this thought process:

5. Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Standing on its own, the verse is strong enough. But how much more deeply it resonates in hearts that treasure this passage, one of the most glorious in all of Scripture:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (I Corinthians 15:45-49, KJV).

Now that is delving deeply into the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

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Forgotten Verses #8: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most noted American poets of the mid-1800s, wrote the words to “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day.” His first three verses are familiar:

1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

2. And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

3. Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Our hymnals then go to what we sing as verse 4:

4. And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Now that’s a dissonant transition! Or, perhaps, it would be better to say it’s no transition at all. How do you get from “A voice, a chime, a chant sublime / of peace on earth, good will to men” to the very next line being “And in despair I bowed my head”?

The answer is simple: You don’t.

You see, Longfellow wrote this lyric in 1864. He originally wrote seven verses. After his original verse 3, he wrote two verses that nobody sings today, for obvious reasons:

4. Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

5. It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Now the final two verses make sense:

6. And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

7. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

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Forgotten Verses #7: Till The Storm Passes By

The Statesmen introduced many of Mosie Lister’s great songs. The Statesmen’s timeless arrangements have been emulated by so many of the groups that have recorded those songs since that the Statesmen arrangement practically defines how we know these songs today.

An excellent case in point is “Till The Storm Passes By.” Mosie Lister originally wrote three verses; notable versions by the Statesmen and Greater Vision only used the first two. Here’s the third verse:

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

A distinct majority of arrangements through the years follow these groups’ leads. This third verse, however, did make an appearance at a Gaither Homecoming taping a few years ago:

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Forgotten Verses #6: “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

William Walford, a blind preacher, wrote the words to “Sweet Hour of Prayer” in 1845. The words didn’t become well known for another sixteen years; in 1861, William Bradbury—known today for his many collaborations with Fanny Crosby—wrote the melody we sing today. The song made its first appearance in the 1861 hymnal Golden Chain.

The hymn originally had four verses; most hymnals today only offer the first two or three verses. But the fourth verse is a particular treasure; about three years ago, in a post entitled “The Missing Part of the Modern Christian Song,” I explained why. Enough new readers have joined us since that time that it’s worth revisiting this glorious fourth verse in this “Forgotten Verses” series: 

Most modern hymnals either only have verses one and two, or verses one and three; a few have one, two, and three. Yet for years, something about the song struck me as vaguely unsatisfying. It was not until I discovered the fourth verse about two years ago that I realized what it was: Modern hymnals had left out the end of the story.

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight.
This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise
To seize the everlasting prize,
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!

You see, while we can enjoy prayer on earth—or, more applicably for most of us, work on the habits of spiritual discipline so that we may move toward enjoying it—it is but a weak foretaste of that day when we shall no longer have to pray—for we shall see face to face.

Truth be told, the verse isn’t completely forgotten in Southern Gospel circles. Vestal Goodman recorded it on the classic 1971 Happy Goodmans live recording Wanted Live; that was actually my first introduction to the verse, since it wasn’t in any of the hymnals I used growing up.

Have any other Southern Gospel artists recorded this verse?

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Forgotten Verses #5: There Is A Fountain

In our previous entry in the Forgotten Verses column, we discussed the publication of the hymnal Olney Hymns, by John Newton and William Cowper. Two of the greatest hymns in the history of the church were introduced in this hymnal. One, “Amazing Grace,” we discussed in the last column. Today, let’s look at the other, “There Is A Fountain.”

Cowper originally penned seven verses. Five are relatively familiar:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.

Two things jump out. First, the repeats were added later. Second, editors of modern hymnals switch out the couplets of verse five, because you simply cannot end a song of this nature with “When this poor lisping, stammering tongue / lies silent in the grave”!

But, you see, that wasn’t an issue for William Cowper, because he did not originally end with verse five. He wrote two more:

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared,
Unworthy though I be,
For me a blood-bought free reward,
A golden harp for me!

’Tis strung and tuned for endless years,
And formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears
No other name but Thine.

To his credit, Michael Booth recorded both of these verses on his 2011 solo project Everlasting Faith (reviewed here; retrospectively, thought the review was favorable, the CD holds up so well that it deserved even higher praise.) Booth’s decision to include these verses is an excellent example of one of the easiest ways to add a fresh twist to a hymns project: Record forgotten verses deserving of another chance in the spotlight.

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Forgotten Verses #4: Amazing Grace

February 15, 1779 was a momentous day in the history of English-language hymnwriting. In February 1779, the American Revolution was still under way, and an attempt by French and American forces to recapture Savannah, Georgia had just failed. Armies on both sides were gearing up for their summer campaigns. So it would perhaps be understandable if one of the most momentous days in the history of English-language hymnwriting went unnoticed at the time. On February 15, 1779, John Newton and William Cowper published Olney Hymns.

The hymnal was named after Olney, England, the town where Newton was a minister and William Cowper had lived. It was a small town of about 2,000 people, and very poor; 1,200 or so were employed at very low wages in making lace. So Newton and Cowper wrote their hymns to be appreciated by the common man. Many have aimed for this goal, but few ever achieved it as successfully as Newton and Cowper. This hymnal included the songs “There is a Fountain,” “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” and, perhaps most significantly, a hymn introduced under the rather unassuming title “Faith’s Review and Expectations.”

Now “Faith’s Review and Expectations” was in the first section of the book, songs drawn from specific passages of Scripture, and listed as its source passage I Chronicles 17:16-17: “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.”

Perhaps few would guess the hymn this passage inspired (and, if you’re ever in a trivia game, throwing in the original title would serve more to confuse things than to clarify!) But perhaps the most obvious parallel comes from the phrase “that You have brought me this far” and the third verse of the song that we know today as “Amazing Grace.”

Newton’s original first four verses are quite familiar:

1. Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, hut now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

3. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

4. The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Less familiar, though, are the two verses Newton used to conclude the song:

5. Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

6. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be for ever mine.

The verse we sing today as the last verse, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years,” was a later addition by another writer. There’s nothing wrong with that verse, but it’s also interesting to see how Newton originally intended for his own song to conclude. Ultimately, he comes to the same conclusion, when he says that “God, who called me here below / will be forever mine,” but along the way, he uses more unusual allusions (“within the veil”) and metaphors (“dissolve like snow”).

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Forgotten Verses #3: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Isaac Watts is counted as the father of English-language hymn-writing, and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is usually acknowledged as his greatest work. In fact, Charles Wesley, another person who would stand shoulder to shoulder with Watts on any top-five list of greatest English-language hymn-writers, reportedly commented that he would have given up every other hymn he had ever written if he could have written this one.

To the credit of the arrangers behind this stunningly magnificent arrangement, the Gaither Vocal Band included all four of the verses we commonly find in hymnals today. But Watts’ original included five verses. Thanks to incredible work of the team behind Google Books’ scanning project, we can see the hymn in its original typesetting, here.

The original verses three to five read:

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.


Now, granted, if we were in a position where we could only choose the strongest four verses, we would probably pick the four we sing today. But the original verse four provides a really nice glue to tie together the verses it follows and precedes. In verse three, we’re looking at the Cross. As we’re used to singing the song, the scene suddenly changes to looking at the whole realm of nature. But look at what this verse four accomplishes: The first two lines are still looking at the cross. “Then I am dead to all the globe / And all the globe is dead to me” is the transition that sets the stage for “Were the whole realm of nature mine.”

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Forgotten Verses, #2: Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me

“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” has three familiar verses. Here’s a video of the Crist Family, several years ago, singing these three verses:

The lyrics were written by Edward Hooper, who ministered to sailors at Church of the Sea and Land in New York City in the later 1800s. His original 1871 manuscript of this song actually included six verses. Verse 1 is the same; the verses we know as 2 and 3 were originally 5 and 6. Here are the original verses 2, 3, and 4:

2. While th’ Apostles’ fragile bark
Struggled with the billows dark,
On the stormy Galilee,
Thou didst walk upon the sea;
And when they beheld Thy form,
Safe they glided through the storm.

3. Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

4. When the darkling heavens frown,
And the wrathful winds come down,
And the fierce waves, tossed on high,
Lash themselves against the sky,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea.

Often, we will find, when some verses of a hymn survive and others get forgotten, the best verses survive. It’s not too hard to see why the original 1, 5, and 6 made it, and the original verse 3 did not. (Not too many people today could define or pronounce “halcyon” without reference to a dictionary!)

But the forgotten verse 2 is quite a gem. Here’s why: Every era has its cool songs, its songs that reference current technology and trends. “Turn Your Radio On,” “Life is Like a Mountain Railway,” and “I’ll Fly Away” are three of Southern Gospel’s enduring examples. (For a less enduring example, try the Weatherfords’ 1950 song “The Atom Bomb”: “Everybody knows about the atom bomb / Nobody knows the day my Lord will come / He’s going to hit, boom, like, boom, the atom bomb / When He comes, Lord, when He comes”!) 

“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” is in a similar vein—similar, I should hasten to add, to the transportation-based “Turn Your Radio On” and “Life is Like a Mountain Railway” (not, perhaps thankfully, to “The Atom Bomb”!) But the forgotten verse 2 does is give the song solid roots in history. With the forgotten verse 2, we’re not just talking about Jesus being by our side today. We’re looking back in history to Jesus guiding His disciples through the tempestuous sea, and that gives us a solid context and foundation for our prayer that He will guide us today.

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Forgotten Verses, #1: “It is Well With My Soul.”

As we know it, the fourth and concluding verse of “It is Well With My Soul” begins with, “And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.” But, originally, that wasn’t verse #4—it was verse #6. Horatio Spafford originally wrote six verses to the song.

Verses 1-3 in Spafford’s original are the same verses 1-3 we sing today. Let’s spotlight verse 3:

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Verse 3 looks back, first to the Cross, and then to that glorious moment when the power of salvation was applied to our lives. But Spafford didn’t originally jump from there to the resurrection. Instead, the original verse 4 looked at life in the present moment:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Before we get to the familiar verse 6/4, there was also a verse 5:

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

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