"SAFELY THROUGH ANOTHER WEEK"
"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…" (Acts 20.7)
INTRO.: A hymn which is especially useful for our worship services on the first day of the week is "Safely Through Another Week" (#21 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by John Newton (1725-1807). It was first published in A Collection of Psalms and Hymns edited by Richard Conyer in 1774 and later in the Olney Hymns, Book 2, of 1776, edited by William Cowper and Newton who is best known for the hymn "Amazing Grace." Since it was originally written in six stanzas for a Saturday evening meeting, several changes and omissions through the years have been made to adapt the hymn for Sunday morning worship. The tune (Sabbath or Olean) is attributed to Lowell Mason (1782-1872). Used with Newton’s text in Mason’s 1824 Hallelujah, it was identified there as an arrangement of a German melody, but it later appeared in the 1835 Boston Academy’s Collection of Church Music as a work of Mason’s. 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 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 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it appears in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard, in addition to Sacred Selections.
The song emphasizes the blessings that come from assembling on the first day of the week for worship.
I. Stanza 1 talks about thanks for God’s care
"Safely through another week, God has brought us on our way;
Let us now a blessing seek, Waiting in His courts today,
Day of all the week the best, Emblem of eternal rest."
A. At the beginning of each week, it is good to stop and remember how it was God who brought us on our way thus far: 1 Sam. 7.12
B. Waiting in His courts symbolizes assembling together in the presence of the Lord: Ps. 96.8, Heb. 10.25 (the original read, "On th’approaching Sabbath day)
C. Ellis J. Crum in Sacred Selections changes the last line to read "Soon will come eternal rest," which is quite dubious since we do not know what hour the Lord will come to give us eternal rest (Matt. 24.36). Therefore, we cannot know whether it will come soon or not. The reason for the change probably is to avoid the comparison of the Sabbath, which is Saturday rather than the first day of the week, to eternal rest (Heb. 4.4-9). However, when we are worshipping in Spirit on the Lord’s day, that too can be considered an emblem of the eternal rest in which the saints will offer endless worship and praise to the Lord: Rev. 1.10, 5.13
II. Stanza 2 talks about the mercies that we receive (most books omit this stanza)
"Mercies multiplied each hour Through the week our praise demand;
Guarded by almighty power, Fed and guided by His hand;
Though ungrateful we have been, Only made returns of sin."
A. Certainly we receive multiplied mercies from God each week: Lam. 3:32
B. These include being fed and guided by the hand of Him who gives us rain and fruitful seasons: Acts 14:17
C. Therefore, even though God continues to be kind to us, we should work at not being unthankful: Lk. 6:35
III. Stanza 3 talks about prayer
"While we pray for pardoning grace, Through the dear Redeemer’s name,
Show Thy reconciling face, Take away our sin and shame;
From our worldly cares set free, May we rest this day in Thee."
A. Both in our private and in our public prayers, we pray through our dear Redeemer’s name because He is our Mediator: Jn. 14.13, 2 Tim. 2.5
B. One aspect of our prayer is that we ask God to show His reconciling (the original read "reconcil-ed") face and take (the original read "shine") away our sins: 2 Cor. 5.19, 1 Jn. 1.9
C. Thus set free from worldly cares, we can rest; I do not necessarily understand this rest to be physical as with the Sabbath, but spiritual, referring to the refreshment of soul that comes from edifying one another in our assemblies: 1 Cor. 14.26
IV. Stanza 4 talks about praising God’s name
"Here we come Thy name to praise: Let us feel Thy presence near;
May Thy glory meet our eyes While we in Thy house appear.
Here afford us, Lord, a taste Of our everlasting feast."
A. One major purpose for our assembling together is to praise God: Heb. 13.15
B. Obviously, the request, "May Thy glory meet our eyes," is figurative in nature, indicating that while we cannot literally see God, as we look into the scriptures and see what Jesus has declared, we in effect can "see" the glory of God: Jn. 1.18, 14.9
C. Thus, by feasting spiritually in our worship here, we are afforded a taste of the everlasting feast above: Rev. 19.7-9
V. Stanza 5 talks about the Lord’s presence (most books also omit this stanza)
"When the morn shall bid us rise, May we feel Thy presence near;
May Thy glory meet our eyes When we in Thy house appear.
There afford us, Lord, a taste Of our everlasting feast."
A. This stanza seems to repeat much of what the previous stanza said; again, the hymn was originally written for a Saturday evening service and stanza 4 focuses on that while stanza 5 looks forward to the next day. But whenever we assemble for worship or Bible study, we should feel God’s presence near because we are gathered together before Him: Acts 10:33
B. The "house" of God is not so much a building but here refers to the church as assembled together: 1 Tim. 3:15
C. The idea of "keeping the feast" here simply refers to our participation in a spiritual relationship with Christ: 1 Cor. 5:8
VI. Stanza 6 talks about the gospel’s joyful sound
"May the gospel’s joyful sound Conquer sinners, comfort saints,
Make the fruits of grace abound, Bring relief to all complaints;
Thus may all our worship prove, Till we join the church above."
A. The gospel’s joyful sound, which is taught in the assemblies of God’s people, is designed to conquer sinners and comfort saints because it is the power of God unto salvation: Rom. 1.16
B. One benefit of studying it together as well as individually is that it helps us to develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: Gal. 3.2,
C. And as long as we live and are able, this can continue until we join the general assembly and church of the firstborn, with the innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect above: Heb. 12.22-23 (the original read: "Thus may all our Sabbaths prove")
CONCL.: Using Mason’s tune, the last two lines of each stanza are repeated. Some have objected to this hymn because they think that it makes the first day of the week sound too much like "The Christian’s Sabbath." While the New Testament does not command Christians to observe any "Sabbath," whether on Saturday or Sunday, it does teach that we are to assemble on the first day of the week, and when we do, we can certainly express our praise and thanks to God that He has brought us "Safely Through Another Week."