"And after these things I heard a voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; s'alvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are His judgments."
From age to age the Christian Church has been listening in solemn awe to her Divine Master's utterance, "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations." Nor at any period since the time when the glory of the descending Judge filled the visions of apostles, has the Church entirely lost her sense of the Bridegroom's approach; there have been seasons of slumber, and many have fallen asleep; but watchful virgins have always kept their lamps trimmed and burning, with oil in their vessels, while their watchful hours have been kept vocal with successive songa of holy confidence and patient joyful hope. Scarcely have the tones of one hymn died away before another has been grandly swelling upon the ear of Christendom. In the fourteenth century the music of the Church was becoming faint. Truth was sending out its messages, but in undertones. Spiritual religion was keeping up its struggling existence within narrow retreats. But even then, as in every crisis of Christian history, there came awakening voices, such as those of Francis of Assissi, and his friend and biographer, Thomas of Celano; one, the great father of itinerant preaching friars; the other, that hymnist whose one judgment hymn roused the slumbering choirs of Europe, and still sends forth its deep and solemn music, making sinners' ears tingle, and thrilling the heart of every Christian generation. The hymn is the natural voice of the times which gave it birth. It is the voice of bondage rather than of freedom, of fearfulness rather than of joy. It is the language of a prodigal deprecating his Father's wrath, rather than the utterance of a son jubilant in anticipation of his inheritance. Its tone is one of deeper humiliation than that of apostolic days; it is not equal to that "full assurance of hope" which the hymns of later times express. But it has doubtless helped many a heart to prepare for judgment, and brought timely comfort to many departing souls by its solemn and unearthly music. It has gathered deeper interest in the affections of many from its association with the last moments of Sir Walter Scott. He requested, as he neared the end, that a dear relative would read to him. "What book shall I read?" it was asked. "What book?" said he; "there is but one!''' Blessed book! that alone could show him his way; but after hearing God's voice, his soul fell back upon ancient songs. Some of the magnificent old hymns in which he had delighted were now murmured by the dying poet. Those who were gathered around him say, "We have often heard distinctly the cadence of the 'Dies Irse,' Thomas of Celano's grand andijnmortal Song of Judgment. Scott had himself translated it in part. No translation, however, among the scores which have been issued, can be called fully adequate in all respects. The spirit and tone have been faithfully and powerfully rendered thus:—
Lo, the day of wrath, the day,
Earth and heaven melt away,
David and the Sybil say.
Stoutest heart with fear shall quiver, . When to Him that erreth never,
All must strict account deliver.
Lo ! the trumpet's wondrous pealing,
Rung through each sepulchral dwelling,
All before the throne compelling!
Nature shrinks appall'd, and death,
When the dead regain their breath,
To the Judge each answereth.
Then the Written Book is set,
All things are contained in it,
Then each learns his sentence meet.
When the Judge appears again,
Hidden things shall be made plain,
Nothing unavenged remain.
What shall I, unworthy, plead?
Who for me will intercede,
When the just will mercy need?
King of dreadful majesty,
Who sav'st the saved of mercy free,
Fount of pity, save Thou me!
Think of me, good Lord, I pray,
Who trodd'st for me the bitter way,
Nor forsake me in that day.
Weary sat'st Thou, seeking me,
Diedst redeeming on the tree;
Not in vain such toil can be!
Judge avenging, let me win
Free remission of my sin,
Ere that dreadful day begin.
Sinful, o'er my sins I groan,
Guilt my crimson'd face must own,
Spare, 0 God, Thy suppliant one.
Mary was by Thee forgiven.
To the thief Thou open'dst heaven,
Hope to me, too, Thou hast given.
All unworthy is my prayer;
Gracious One, be gracious there;
From that quenchless fire, oh spare.
Place Thou me at Thy right hand,
'Mongst Thy sheep, oh make me stand,
Far from the convicted band.
When the accursed condemn'd shall be
Doom'd to keenest flames by Thee,
'Midst the blessed call Thou me.
Contrite, suppliant, I pray,
Ashes on my heart I lay,
Care Thou for me in that day.
To write a judgment hymn with that spirit, and power, and majesty which become the theme, requires a glowing intellect under the full command of inspired truth; a genius in deep sympathy with Divine revelations; a soul devoutly familiar with spiritual unseen things, capable, by
strong faith, of realizing the presence of the Judge, and of expressing its sense of that presence so as to make others see and feel much of what it sees and feels itself; one indeed who lives in frequent visions of the unearthly and the divine. Hymnists of this class have sometimes sprung up where, by most people, they would not be looked for. On the morning of October 24th, 1753, a somewhat remarkable figure was seen walking out from the town of Bradford, in Wiltshire. He had on a long, heavy great-coat, covering a dress of dark blue, of primitive cut, rather after the style of the ordinary dress of a modern English bishop. He wore heavy riding-boots, however, and had saddle-bags filled with books and linen slung across his shoulder. His face would arrest attention; the open, well-formed, manly features, and the ever-kindling eye giving expression to a rare combination of acute perception, deep thoughtfulness, logical power, happy temper, quiet humour, and bold imagination. It was one of Mr. Wesley's itinerant preachers, on his way to Cornwall, afoot. After many curious adventures on the road, he entered on his perilous "round" among the then rude masses of the extreme west. His own rare bit. of autobiography helps us to follow his steps. "As to trials," says he, "I do not remember that I had any in these parts^ which deserve the name. Indeed, in one place the high constable came to press me for a soldier while I was preaching. He said, 'As you preach so well, you are very fit to serve his Majesty. I therefore desire you will get ready to go with me to a magistrate to-morrow morning.' I answered, 'Why not to-night? I am ready to go with you now.' He then said, 'Well, you may first finish your sermon.' Accordingly, I began again where I had left off, and the constable and his companion stayed to hear me, and then went quietly away. The next morning I waited for his return, but he never came; so that, in all probability, what he heard was a means, at least, of cooling his courage."
The man who could act and write like this was no common man. He was a dreamer, at all events; for he tells us :—" When I was in this neighbourhood, I dreamed one night that Christ was come in the clouds to judge the world, and also that He looked exceeding black at me. When I awoke I was much alarmed. I therefore humbled myself exceedingly, with fastings and prayer, and was determined never to give over till my evidence of the love of Christ was made quite clear. One day, as I was at prayer in my room, with my eyes shut, the Lord, as it were, appeared, to the eye of my mind, as standing just before me, while ten thousand small streams of blood seemed to issue from every part of His body. This sight was So unexpected, and at the same time so seasonable, that, for once, I wept aloud ; yea, and almost fainted away. I now more fully believed His love to me, and that, if He was then to come to judgment, He would not frown, but rather smile on me; therefore I loved and praised Him with all my heart. Some years after, I had a dream of a quite different sort; I dreamed that I was talking with two women concerning the day of judgment. Among other things, I thought I told them I was certain it was very near. On hearing this, I thought they burst into laughter, and rejected all I said. Being much grieved at this, I told them, 'I will go and see if it is not as I said.' Accordingly I went to the door, and, on looking up southward, thought I saw the heavens open, and a stream of fire, as large as a small river, issuing forth. On seeing this, I thought I ran back to the women, and said, 'You would not believe me; but come to the door, and you will see with your own eyes that the day is come.' On hearing this, I thought they were much alarmed, and ran with me to the door. By the time we were got thither, I thought the whole concave, southward, was filled with an exceedingly thick, fiery mist, which swiftly moved northward in a huge body, filling the whole space between the heaven and the earth as it came along. As it drew near, I thought, 'The day is come of which I have so often told the world, and now, in a few moments, I shall see how it will be with me to all eternity." And for a moment I seemed to feel myself in a state of awful suspense. When the fire was come close to me, I was going to shrink back, but thought, 'This is all in vain, as there is now no place of shelter left.' I then pushed myself forward into it, and found that the fire had no power to hurt me, for I stood as easy in the midst of it as ever I did in the open air. The joy I felt, on being able to stand unhurt and undismayed amidst this awful burning, cannot be described. Even so shall it be with all who are careful to enter in at the strait gate, and to walk closely and steadily in the narrow way all the days of their life. All these shall
Stand secure, and smile,
Amidst the jarring' elements,
The wreck of matter and the crash of worlds!"
This dream might remind us of Charles Wesley's grand hymn:—
Stand th' omnipotent decree:
Jehovah's will be done!
Nature's end we wait to see,
And hear her final groan;
Let this earth dissolve, and blend
In death the wicked and the just;
Let those ponderous orbs descend,
And grind us into dust.
• Rests secure the righteous man,
At his Redeemer's beck,
Sure to emerge, and rise again,
And mount above the wreck;
Lo, the heavenly spirit towers,
Like flame, o'er nature's funeral pyre,
Triumphs in immortal powers,
And claps his wings of fire!
Nothing hath the just to lose
By worlds on worlds destroyed,
Far beneath his feet he views
With smiles the naming void;
Sees the universe renew'd,
The grand millennial reign begnn,
Shouts, with all the sons of God,
Around the eternal throne!
Resting in this glorious hope
To be at last restored,
Yield we now our bodies up
To earthquake, plague, or sword.
Listening for the call Divine,
The latest trumpet of the seven;
Soon our souls and dust shall join,
And both fly up to heaven.
The dreamer may have had this hymn in his mind; at all events, the visions of judgment, the awful scenes of the consummation entranced him. And whether his dreams arose from the cherished imaginations of his soul in its daily communion with the future, or whether the dream which he records gave to his consecrated genius the inspiring touches which kindled it into song, the story of his dreams will ever be associated with his immortal judgment hymn:—
Come, immortal Bong of Glory!
Now with all Thy saints appear;
While astonish'd worlds adore Thee,
And the dead Thy clarions hear.
And Thy deity maintain.
Hail! the world's adored Creator!
In Thy radiant vesture seen.
Hail! the Lord of life and nature!
Hail! the Almighty Nazarene!
They who pierced Him,
Every eye shall see Him come.
But, how diverse the sensation!
Saints with joy and rapture fill'd,
Glow with holy exultation,
To redemption's glory seal'd:
While jthe wicked
Wail His doming's dread design.
Lo! He comes with"clouds descending:
Hark! the trump of God ia blown:
And th' archangel's voice attending,
Make the high procession known.
Sons of ././'A///',
Rise and stand before your God!
Crowns and sceptres fall before Him,
Kings and conquerors own His sway,
Haughtiest monarchs now adore Him,
While they see His lightnings play.
Is the world's Redeemer now.
Light primeval in its lustre
Doth in Jesu's aspect shine;
Blazing comets are not fiercer
Than His eyes of flame Divine.
Oh, how dreadful
Doth the Ciucified appear!
Hear His voice as mighty thunder,
Sounding in eternal roar,
While its echo rends in sunder
Rocks and mountains, sea and shore.
Hark, His accents
Thro' th' unfathom'd deep resound!
See His throne of jasper whiteness;
Throne of justice and of grace;
See Jehovah's equal brightness
Shining in Emmanuel's face.
Shout with joy th' aecomplish'd prayer.
"Come, Lord Jesus, oh come quickly:'' Oft has pray'd the mourning bride.
Lo! He answers, "I come quickly,"
Who Thy coming may abide?
All who loved Him,
All who long'd to see Hie day.
See the awful expectation!
See the heavens themselves on fire!
Melting in the conflagration,
See the elements expire!
While the trumpet
Blows around, "Te dead, arise!"
Lo! the dead arise, and standing
At their great Creator's bar:
While the Judge of all commanding,
Cries, " To meet your God prepare."
All whose judgments
And Hia ways are equal found!
Now the dreadful volumes opening,
Scenes of various deeds disclose,
While the Judge proclaims the sentence,
Righteous sentence on His foes:
Wrath to sinners;
To His saints the crown of life!
G•ather ye His saints together,
Now with Him in judgment sit;
See the vile as stubble wither,
Ashes now beneath your feet!
While His vengeance
Seals their everlasting doom.
Hark! the universal groaning;
Hark! the cries of guilt and fear;
Hear them each his fate bemoaning,
Each the cause bemoaning hear.
God no longer
Patient, merciful or kind.
"Come, ye mountains, and fall on us, Come, ye rocks, our heads conceal,
For the day is come upon us,
Day of wrath that burns to hell;
Where the gnawing
Worm of conscience never dies.
Where no more for them remaining,
Hope no more awaits their call;
But in iron bonds detaining,
Heav'ns high justice binds up all.
While His mercy
To remorseless judgment turns.
Lo! the God of all contending,
Calls the heavens from afar,
Bids, O earth, thy sons attending,
Hear Him, for Himself declare
All His wisdom,
And His righteous acts unfold.
Stopt for ever all complaining;
Stopt the mouth of murmuring pride; Fools no more their God disdaining,
Atheists now no more deride,
But with trembling
Wait His judgment's last award.
"Go from Me," He saith, "ye cursed,"
Ye for whom I bled in vain,
Who My utmost grace resisted;
Go ye to unending pain.
True and righteous are Thy ways!
"Come," He saith, " ye heirs of glory,"
Come, ye purchase of my blood,
Claim the kingdom now before you,
Rise, and fill the mount of God:
Fix'd for ever,
Where the Lamb on Sion stands.
See ten thousand burning seraphs
From their thrones as lightnings fly: Take, they cry, your seats above us,
Nearest Him that rules the sky,
How rewarded are ye now!
Rausom'd victors, see His ensign,
Waving high in purple air!
Jesus, with His ancients reigning,
Shall to each His conquest share:
He who made them
More than conquerors thro' His blooi.
Now their trials all are ended,
Now the dubious warfare's o'er;
Joy no more with sorrow blended;
They shall sigh and weep no more:
God for ever
Wipes the tear from every eye.
Thro' His passion, all victorious;
Now they drink immortal wine:
In Emmanuel's likeness, glorious
As the firmament they shine:
Shine for ever
With the bright and morning star.
Where His sceptre's sway extending,
Jesus high His right maintains;
Heaven, and earth, and hell commanding,
God omnipotent He reigns:
Prince of princes!
King of kings, and Lord of lords!
Shining in His bright expansion,
King of saints behold Him sit!
Joy of each adoring mansion,
Sunk for ever at His feet.
Lord of Glory!
And His kingdom without end!
Shout aloud, ye ethereal choirs,
Triumph in Jehovah's praise,
Kindle all your heavenly fires,
All your palms of vict'ry raise:
Shout His conquests,
Shout, " Salvation to the Lamb."
See in sacred pomp ascending,
Jesus and His glorious train:
Countless myriads now attending
Hail the empyrean plain.
First and last and Lord of all!
In full triumph see them marching,
Through the gates of massy light:
While the city walls are sparkling
With meridian glory bright.
Oh how lovely
Are the dwellings of the Lamb!
See His beauty all resplendent:
See in Him the Godhead shine:
See Him above all transcendent,
Full of Deity Divine.
Sov'reign Lord of worlds unknown!
On His throne of sapphired azure,
High above all height He reigns:
Reigns the fount of endless pleasure;
Self-subsistent He remains.
Shines the uncreated blaze!
Hosts angelic all adore Him,
Circling round His orient seat,'
Elders cast their crowns before Him,
Fall and worship at His feet.
Oh how "holy,
"And how reverend is Thy name !''
Shout aloud the new creation,
All ye heavenly arches ring,
Echo to the Lord—salvation,
"Glory to th' eternal king!"
"God with God! and Son of man!"
I am Alpha and Omega,
I the first and last am He:
He who was and is to come—who
Am and will for ever be:
Jah, Jehovah, is my name.
Hail! Thou Alpha and Omega!
First and last of all alone!
He that is, and was, and shall be,
And beside whom there is none,
Take the glory,
Great eternal Three in One!
Praise be to the Father given:
Praise to the co-eval Son:
Praise the Spirit, one and seven:
Praise the mystic Three in One,
Everlasting praise be Thine.
The dreamer will be known from his hymn. He was no other than Thomas Olivers, the wandering Methodist preacher, Wesley's companion, and Toplady's theological antagonist. Thomas Olivers was born at Tregonan, in Montgomeryshire, in 1725. His father died four years after his birth; in three months his mother's heart was broken by her loss; and he, with a younger brother, were left to the care of his mother's friends. Placed at a neighbouring school, he "received such learning as was thought necessary " ; but proved a more apt scholar in vice than in virtue. At eighteen he was apprenticed to a shoemaker, and entered on a course of youthful profligacy in which he soon outstripped most of his compeers; and was obliged at length to fly from the scene of his wickedness, in order to escape public indignation. As a wanderer from place to place, he exemplified the misery of those who plunge deeper and deeper into sin, vainly striving to shake off, or alleviate the terrors of an evil conscience. Reduced at last to beggary, and extreme wretchedness of mind and body, he found his way to hear Whitefield preach at Bristol. The preacher's text was, "Is not this a brand plucked out of the firei"' It was a word in season. Olivers became a new man, and on the first Sunday after, "I went," he says, "to the cathedral at six in the morning. When the Te Deum was read, I felt as if I had done with earth and was praising God before His throne. No words can set forth the joy, the rapture, the awe and reverence I felt." His course was altered. He joined the Methodists. All his debts were gradually paid. He began to preach; was at length sent into Cornwall by Mr. Wesley; and having run a useful, happy, and honourable course, he suddenly departed in March, 1799, leaving his dust to be deposited in Wesley's own tomb. He has bequeathed to us one of the grandest judgment hymns that ever the Church sang, or that ever brought the sound of the Judge's approach to the ears of the world. It is remarkable that Charles Wesley and he should have the same line in the two hymns that so strikingly rival each other in magnificence. Each sings:
Lo! He comes with clouds descending. .
Whether Wesley caught the key-note from Olivers, or Olivers from Wesley, they evidently breathed the same inspiration. Each hymnist has the same vivid realization of the overwhelming majesty of the final scene ; and neither of the two hymns can be devoutly sung without an everdeepening feeling of solemn awe and reverent hope. How striking and sublime is Wesley's third verse, in which the Judge appears still bearing the tokens of His passion, thus exciting the holy rapture of those who have been redeemed by His agony and death:—
The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransom'd worshippers:
With what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Most of Charles Wesley's judgment hymns are of the highest class. Several of them were written in December, 1755, just when the public miiid was agitated by the fearful news of the Lisbon earthquake; and while the nation was in tremulous suspense, awaiting the threatened French invasion. Some of these have special allusion to the distinguishing circumstances of the times; but others may be on the lips and hearts of all, in all ages, who prayerfully look for the day of account. No hymn can more graciously dispose the subjects of future judicial inspection for the holiest and safest posture of readiness for the trumpet'.-) voice than this:—
Thou Judge of quick and dead,
Before whose bar severe,
With holy joy or guilty dread,
We all shall soon appear;
Our caution'd souls prepare
For that tremendous day;
And fill us now with watchful care,
And stir us up to pray—
To pray and wait the hour,
That awful hour unknown;
When, robed in majesty and power,
Thou shalt from heaven come down,
The immortal Son of man,
To judge the human race,
With all Thy Father's dazzling train,
With all Thy glorious grace.
To damp our earthly joys,
To increase our gracious fears,
For ever let the Archangel's voice
Be sounding in our ears;
The solemn midnight cry,
"Ye dead, the Judge is come;
Arise and meet Him in the sky,
And meet your instant doom!"
Oh, may we thus be found
Obedient to His word;
Attentive to the trumpet's sound,
And looking for our Lord!
Oh, may we thus ensure
A lot among the blest;
And watch a moment to secure
An everlasting rest!
But among the many judgment hymns which must be ever precious to those who "look for their Lord," who can forget one that rose from Oxford, about forty years ago, kindling afresh the faith of English Christians, and awakening the Church to brighter and holier anticipations of its Lord's descent. Henry Hart Milman will always be reverenced by the lovers of high class Church history, and be thought of with admiration and thankfulness by all who enjoy the Christian hymn when it rises into impressive grandeur. Dean Milman, now a venerable man bending under the weight of years, is the son of Sir Francis Milman, physician to George III. Born in 1791; educated at Eton and Oxford, he was advanced in 1817 to the vicarage of St. Mary's, Keading; and four years after was installed as University Professor of Poetry at Oxford; and while filling that chair, he gave forth his hymn on "The Last Day" :—
The chariot, the chariot! its wheels roll on fire,
As the Lord cometh down in the pomp of His ire;
Self-moving, it drives on its pathway of cloud,
And the heavens with the burthen of Godhead are bowed.
The glory, the glory! around Him are poured,
The myriads of angels that wait on the Lord;
And the glorified saints, and the martyrs are there,
And all who the palm-wreath of victory wear.
The trumpet, the trumpet! the dead have all heard,
Lo ! the depths of the stone-covered charnel are stirred;
From the ocean and earth, from the south and the north,
Lo ! the vast generations of ages come forth!
The judgment, the judgment! the thrones are all set,
Where the Lamb and the white-vested elders are met;
All flesh is at once in the sight of the Lord,
And the doom of eternity hangs on His word.
Oh mercy, oh mercy! look down from above,
Redeemer, on us Thy sad children, with love.
When beneath, to their darkness the wicked are driven,
May our sanctified souls find a mansion in heaven.