"THE DAY THOU GAVEST"
"From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised" (Ps. 113.3)
INTRO.: A hymn which suggests that the Lord’s name is to be praised unto the going down of the sun is "The Day Thou Gavest." The text was written by John Ellerton (1826-1893). The poem was first published in the 1870 work A Liturgy for Missionary Meetings, edited by Frome and Hodges. The author revised it as a hymn in five stanzas for the 1871 Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge’s Church Hymns. The tune (St. Clement) was composed for this text by Clement Cotteril Scholefield, who was born on June 22, 1839, at Edgbaston in West Midlands, England, the youngest son of William Scholefield, a Member of Parliament from Birmingham for twenty years. After leaving the Pocklington Grammar School, he attended St. John’s College at Cambridge, from which he received the B. A. in 1864 and the M. A. in 1867, and became a minister in the church of England, serving churches at Hove in Brighton beginning in 1867, St. Peter’s in South Kensington beginning in 1869, and St. Luke’s in Chelsea beginning in 1879.
From 1880 to 1890 Scholefield was chaplain at Eton, and from 1890 to 1895 minister at Holy Trinity in Knightsbridge, contributing several hymn tunes to Church Hymns with Tunes, compiled by Arthur Sullivan in 1874. A self-taught musician, Scholefield retired in 1895 and died on Sept. 10, 1904, at Frith Hall, Godalming in Surrey, England. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1922 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 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1980 Majestic Praise edited by David N. Henderson and Michael J. Schmidt. Today it is found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat. The text, with an oriental tune (Shen Eng) by Su Yin-Lan, is found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann.
The hymn uses the coming of evening to ponder the Lord’s sovereignty over all the earth.
I. Stanza 1 teaches that at evening the darkness falls
"The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended; The darkness falls at Thy behest.
To Thee our morning hymns ascended; Thy praise shall hallow now our rest."
A. When the day is ended, it is by the behest of God that darkness falls: Gen. 1.3-5
B. Every morning, hymns of praise should ascend to God: Ps. 5.1-2
C. And when we pillow our heads at night for rest, His praise should hallow us: Ps. 92.1-2
II. Stanza 2 teaches that at evening the church does not rest
"We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping, And rests not now by day or night."
A. The church was built by Christ: Matt. 16.18
B. While it is true that Christians must sleep, the church as a spiritual body does not rest but keeps its watch throughout the world
because it is the pillar and ground of the truth: 1 Tim. 3.15
C. Thus, since the earth was created so that when one part of the earth is in night the other part is in day, the church, like the living creatures who surround the throne of God, rests not day or night: Rev. 4.8
III. Stanza 3 teaches that at evening the voice of prayer can be heard
"As o’er each continent and island The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent, Nor dies the strain of praise away."
A. God ordained continents and islands on the earth so that there would be dry land: Gen. 1.9-10
B. As the earth revolves, the dawn leads on to another day: Matt. 28.1
C. Therefore, with dawn ever rising somewhere on earth, the voice of prayer is never silent, even as the Lord wants His people to pray without ceasing: 1 Thess. 5.17
IV. Stanza 4 teaches that at evening people in other places are waking to praise
"The sun, that bids us rest, is waking Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making Thy wondrous doings heard on high."
A. Because of the rotation of the earth, the sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west, making its seeming circuit: Ps. 19.1-6
B. As the sun sets in the west, it is rising there and waking those who live in that part of the world: Eccl. 1.5
C. Wherever people are awake, they can tell the wondrous works of God: Ps. 145.4-7
V. Stanza 5 teaches that at evening the Throne of God still stands
"So be it, Lord; Thy Throne shall never, Like earth’s proud empires, pass away,
But stand, and rule, and grow forever, Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway."
A. The throne of God is forever and ever: Ps. 45.6
B. The kingdoms and empires of earth pass away: Dan. 2.44
C. Yet God’s kingdom will continue with its aim of bringing every knee to bow to Christ and every tongue to confess that He is Lord: Phil. 2.10-11
CONCL.: Armin Haeussler in The Story of Our Hymns wrote of this song, "Since there are few churches today with regular evening services, this great hymn is seldom sung, which is a pity, for the hymn stresses the worldwide outreach of the Church as few others do. The church universal concept is in the foreground. If British imperialists have proudly pointed out that ‘the sun never sets on the Union Jack,’ Christians all over the world gain a greater thrill from the thought that the sun will never set on the cross of Christ. The Christian faith is not provincial or national. The Church is a world-wide fellowship as no other organization can ever hope to be….A marked difference between earthly empires and the heavenly kingdom is, of course, the difference between the transitory and the abiding, the temporal and the eternal. The last stanza enshrines a vision of the Lord’s complete reign throughout the coming ages." This is certainly worthy of our consideration as we begin to make our preparations for the night and tell the Lord, "Thank You for ‘The Day Thou Gavest.’"