"SAVIOR, AGAIN TO THY DEAR NAME WE RAISE"
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives" (Matt. 26:30)
INTRO.: A song which was intended for the closing of a service, such as that which Jesus and His apostles may have sung before leaving the upper room for the Mount of OIives, is "Savior, Again, To Thy Dear Name." The text was written by John Ellerton (1832-1915). Originally in six stanzas, it was produced in 1866 as the closing hymn for the Malpas, Middlewich, and Nantwich Choral Association Festival, and then altered and abridged to four stanzas by the author for the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern. Ellerton had organized the first choral society in the Midlands which met at Nantwich for many years. The tune (Ellers or Benediction) was composed by Edward John Hopkins who was born on June 30, 1818, at Westminster in London, England. His brother, John, was also a hymnwriter. Edward began his musical career by singing in the choir of the Chapel Royal where he studied music theory under T. F. Walmsley.
Later Hopkins played the organ at Mitcham in Surrey; St. Peters in Islington; and St. Luke’s on Berwick Street. In 1843, he became music director at the Temple Church in London, where he remained over half a century. In 1855, he co-published The Organ: Its History and Construction. This tune was produced for Ellerton’s text and first appeared in the Supplemental Hymn and Tune Book, Third Edition, of 1869 by Robert Brown-Borthwick with a different harmonization for each stanza. The composer adopted one harmonization for all four voices which was used in the Appendix to the Bradford Tune Book of 1872 at the request of the editor Samuel Smith. Other alterations were made for the 1874 Church Hymns with Tunes by editor Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900). Hopkins’s widely respected hymn editing work included completing the Wesleyan Hymn Book of 1876, which had been begun by Henry J. Gauntlett and George Cooper, and serving as the music editor for the Congregational Church Hymnal of 1887.
In 1882, the Archbishop of Canterbury awarded Hopkins an honorary D. Mus. degree. Also he received an honorary degree in 1886 from Trinity College, Toronto, Canada. A composer of anthems, service music, and chant settings, in addition to hymn tunes, he retired in 1898 and died at St. Pancras in London, on Feb. 4, 1901. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century, the song appeared in 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. Today it can be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand. Only the latter has all four stanzas of Ellerton’s revision.
The song is especially appropriate as a wish expressed by the participants in a worship assembly for each other as they dismiss.
I. Stanza 1 speaks of God’s peace in worship
"Savior, again to Thy dear name we raise
With one accord our parting hymn of praise;
We stand to bless Thee ere our worship cease,
Then, lowly kneeling, wait Thy word of peace."
A. One purpose of worship is to raise with one accord praise to the Lord: Ps. 145.1
B. Many newer books try to eliminate any references to standing and kneeling, once a common practice in worship services, by saying, "We come to bless Thee" and "Then, lowly bowing" or even "Then, trusting Thee await." The Bible does not teach that the only acceptable posture for prayer is kneeling. However, even if we do not physically kneel, we can still use the word in song to describe figuratively the submission of our hearts to the Lord when we pray: Lk. 22.41
C. As we express our praise to God, we also ask His peace to be with us: 1 Pet. 5.14
II. Stanza 2 speaks of God’s peace on our homeward journey
"Grant us Thy peace upon our homeward way;
With Thee began, with Thee shall end, the day.
Guard Thou the lips from sin, the hearts from shame,
That in this house have called upon Thy name."
A. There is certainly nothing wrong about asking for God’s peace and protection, as we often do in our closing prayers, on our way home: Rom. 1.9-10
B. It is always good that we both begin and end each day in communion with God: Ps. 55.16-19
C. One thing for which we can ask God is to help guard our lips and hearts from evil: Ps. 141.3-4
III. Stanza 3 speaks of God’s peace through the night
"Grant us Thy peace, Lord, through the coming night;
Turn Thou for us its darkness into light.
From harm and danger keep Thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to Thee."
A. There is also nothing wrong with asking for God’s peace to bless us through the night: Ps. 6.4-7
B. We should want the Lord to keep us from any harm or danger that might come upon us: Ps. 121.3-8
C. The reason that we can depend upon the Lord to keep us through the night is that darkness and light are alike to Him: Ps. 139.11-12
IV. Stanza 4 speaks of God’s peace throughout our lives
"Grant us Thy peace throughout our earthly life,
Our balm in sorrow, and our stay in strife;
Then, when Thy voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to Thine eternal peace."
A. We should desire the Lord’s peace to continue throughout our earthly lives to be a balm in sorrow and a stay in strife: Phil. 4.6-
7 (the original apparently read, as do some books, "Peace to Thy church from error and from strife;" whether this was altered by the author himself or someone else I have not been able to ascertain)
B. Someday, His voice will bid our conflict cease in that we must pass from this life: Heb. 9.27
C. Then those who die in the Lord can begin to enjoy God’s eternal peace: Rev. 14.13
V. A stanza from Ellerton’s original not included in his revision but still used in a few books speaks of God’s peace in death
"Thy peace in life, the balm of every pain;
Thy peace in death, the hope to rise again;
Peace to our land, the fruit of truth and love;
Peace in each heart, Thy Spirit from above."
A. We should certainly strive to maintain the peace of Christ in our lives: Jn. 14.27
B. We can have peace in death by living so as to be assured of the hope to rise again: 1 Thess. 4.13-17
C. But the only way that we can have peace in life and death is to have peace in our hearts through the Spirit who dwells in us: Gal.
5.22-23, Eph. 5.18
CONCL.: According to Carlton R. Young in the Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, "Stanley L. Osborne has nicely summarized the hymn: ‘The central theme is peace: the peace of evening, the peace of night, and peace throughout our life’ (Osborne 1976, hymn 370)." This hymn is probably not too well known among us, compared to "Blest Be The Tie" or "God Be With You," because it has not been as many of our books. But it can serve as a lovely closing song as we say to the Lord, concerning both our praise and prayer that "Savior, Again, To Thy Dear Name We Raise."