“Now the Day Is Over”

"…Thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet" (Prov. 3.24)

     INTRO.: A hymn which asks God’s blessings upon us and others as we lie down and sleep is "Now The Day Is Over" (#122 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #659 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Sabine Baring-Gould (1836-1896). Originally in eight stanzas, it was produced in 1865 (some sources say 1867) and first published on Feb. 16 of that year as a poem in The Church Times. Its first appearance as a hymn was in the 1868 appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern with a melody by Baring-Gould, who is best remembered as the author of the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers." A new tune (Merrial, Emmelear, Evening, Twilight, and Shades of Evening) was composed by Joseph Barnby, who was born in York, England, on Aug. 12, 1838, son of Thomas Barnby, and became a talented musician from his youth. As a boy of seven, he was a chorister at York Minster.

     At the age of twelve, Barnby became an organist, like his father, and at fourteen a choirmaster. After he received his musical education at the Royal Academy of Music under Cipriani Potter beginning in 1854, he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1856 and served at Mitcham, St. Michaels, Queenhithe, and St. James the Less in Westminster before his first important post of service as music director which was at St. Andrew’s on Wells St. in London from 1863 to 1871. During this time, he published his Original Tunes to Popular Hymns in 1869, which included this melody which he had produced the previous year specifically for Baring-Gould’s text. From 1871 to 1886 he served as music director at St. Ann’s Soho. As a conductor, he led the St. Matthew Passion by Bach in Westminster Abbey in 1871. Also, from 1875 to 1892, he taught at Eton College but resigned to succeed Thomas Weist-Hill as principal of the Guildhall School of Music.

     In addition, from 1861 to 1875 Barnby was musical advisor to the publishing firm of Novello and Company Ltd., which established a choral group for him in 1867 which was known as "Barnby’s Choir." In 1878, he married Lady Edith Mary Silverthorne, and that same year helped found the London Musical Society where he conducted Dvorak’s Stabat Mater for the first time in England. During his lifetime, he edited five hymnbooks, the most noted of which was his 1872 Hymnary, and is credited with some 246 tunes. In 1884 he conducted the first performance of Wagner’s Parsifal in England and from 1886 to 1888 he conducted rehearsals and concerts of the Royal Academy of Music, of which he was a fellow. His own compositions include an oratorio Rebecca, a psalm for the Leeds Festival, an enormous number of anthems, and many vocal pieces. Knighted by Queen Victory in 1892 for his musical accomplishments, he died in London, England, on Jan. 28, 1896.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Now the Day Is Over," appeared in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.  Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise, all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     This hymn, of which only six stanzas are commonly used, has been called the perfect evening hymn.

I. Stanza 1 is basically an approach to God through nature
"Now the day is over, Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening Steal across the sky."
 A. When the day is over is that time that we lie down and sleep: Ps. 4.8
 B. It was God Himself in creation who divided the Night from the Day: Gen. 1.5
 C. Thus, the shadows of the evening that steal across the sky declare His handiwork: Ps. 19.1

II. Stanza 2 is a call of a tired body for safe and refreshing rest
"Jesus, give the weary Calm and sweet repose;
With Thy tenderest blessings May our eyelids close."
 A. Each person become weary or tired as a result of his activities: Isa. 40.30
 B. However, God has promised His people that He will give HIs beloved sleep: Ps. 127.2
 C. Therefore, those who trust in God can close their eyelids with the knowledge of God’s blessings in peace: Eccl. 5.12

III. Stanza 3 is a request that God will watch over children and sailors during the night
"Grant to little children Visions bright of Thee;
Guard the sailors tossing On the deep blue sea."
 A. Little children are pure and innocent, and thus are of special interest to the Lord: Matt. 19.14
 B. Such children deserve prayers for their protection: Ps. 72.4
 C. Also, those whose work for their families puts their lives in jeopardy, such as sailors, deserve prayers for their safety: Ps.

IV. Stanza 4 is a petition for both the suffering and the wicked
"Comfort every sufferer Watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil From their sin restrain."
 A. Our nightly prayers should be not only for ourselves and our loved ones but for all who are suffering: 1 Pet. 4.19
 B. Many people who are in pain ask for our prayers that they might be comforted: Ps. 25.16-18
 C. A lot of suffering and pain is caused by those who sin at night because they prefer the cover of darkness, so we should also pray for those in sin that they might be restrained from their evil and be led to the right way, remembering that darkness cannot hide them from God: Ps. 139.11

V. Stanza 5 expresses the desire that angels watch over us during the night
"Through the long night watches May thine angels spread
Their white wings above me, Watching round my bed."
 A. Many people do not like the common concept of "guardian angels," yet a statement by Jesus about little ones and "their angels" does suggest that certain angels may take a special interest in particular individuals: Matt. 18.10
 B. Other people object to angels as being pictured with wings, but the common belief coming from Jewish tradition based upon Old Testament teaching is that both cherubim and seraphim are classes of angels (lit. "messengers," i.e., for God) and they have wings: Exo. 25.18-20, Isa. 6.1-2 (whether these passages are to be understood literally or figuratively, they do mention wings)
 C. We may not be able to determine from the scriptures whether there are such things as guardian angels or not, but the Bible does teach that angels are ministering spirits who are sent forth to serve those who will inherit salvation: Heb. 1.13-14

VI. Stanza 6 is a supplication for God’s guidance during the new day
"When the morning wakens, Then may I arise,
Pure and fresh and sinless In Thy holy eyes."
 A. The morning is the time for which the sleeper watches and waits to arise: Ps. 130.6
 B. When we lie down to sleep with God’s blessings, we can look forward to being sustained until the morning when we can awaken: Ps. 3.5
 C. And as we get up pure and fresh and sinless we can even more look forward to that eternal morning of joy: Ps. 30.5

     CONCL.: This hymn has been included in almost every hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ. The final stanza, #8, might serve as somewhat of a doxology.
"Glory to the Father, Glory to the Son,
And to the blest Spirit, Whilst all ages run."
These words appeal to both young and old alike. Those who remember it from childhood can find deeper meaning in later years. And the music perfectly suits the words. The melody centers largely on one note, but the ever-changing harmony prevents monotony. Together, they produce a peaceful and soothing effect. As we pillow our heads in sleep, it is always good to know that God is with us, "Now the Day Is Over."


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