"THE SOLEMN FEAST"
"…This do in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:24)
INTRO.: A song which encourages us in partaking of the Lord’s supper to make sure that we do it in remembrance of Christ is "The Solemn Feast" (#288 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Joseph Hart (1712-1768). It first appeared in the 1762 Supplement to his 1759 Hymns Composed on Various Subjects, with the Author’s Experience, originally beginning, "That doleful night." Some books have altered it to read, "That solemn night," but most of our books have changed it to "That dreadful night." Other hymns by Hart in our books include "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" and "How Good Is the God We Adore." The words to "The Solemn Feast" have been set to various melodies, including one (Avon or Martyrdom) by High Wilson which has been used with several other hymns in our books including a paraphrase of Ps. 143 beginning "When Morning Lights the Eastern Skies;" another (Arlington) by Thomas A. Arne which has also been used with several other hymns in our book but is especially associated with Anna L. Barbauld’s "Again the Lord of Light and Life;" and still another (Manoah) attributed to Giaochinno Rossini and arranged by Henry W. Greatorex which is commonly used with Samuel Stennett’s "Majestic Sweetness."
For Hart’s hymn, the majority of our books use a new tune composed by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). It was copyrighted in 1935. Still another tune (Horsely) that can be used with it was composed by William Horsely, who was born on Nov. 15, 1774, at Mayfair in London, England. After studying music privately, he became an organist in 1794. Assisting Dr. John Wall Callcott, the composer of "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes" who encouraged him in Glee-writing, at which he became proficient, as organist at the Asylum for Female Orphans, he married Callcott’s daughter. In 1802, he succeeded Callcott and held that post for 52 years until a difference of opinion with the Asylum Committee led to his dismissal. Also in 1838 he became organist of the Charterhouse, where he was given a salary, a room, and a fire "when necessary for his use on those days upon which his duty requires his attendance at the Hospital." This tune is dated either 1830 or 1844 and may have been provided for a hymn "Whatever Dims Thy Sense of Truth" by Mary W. Hale. A founder of the London Philharmonic Society, Horsley was in later years a close friend of Felix Mendelssohn prior to his death at Kensington in London, England, on June 12, 1858.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text, with Sanderson’s tune and usually just two stanzas, appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1, though with all four stanzas), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. It was used with the Wilson tune in the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas Seth Cobb. Today, it may be found in the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns (with both the Wilson and Sanderson tunes) 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 (both of the latter with the Sanderson tune); as well as Sacred Selections (with the Wilson tune). The Horsley tune is used with Cecil Alexander’s "There Is a Green Hill" in Praise for the Lord.
In these various forms, this hymn has frequently been used to prepare minds for the Lord’s supper in worship.
I. Stanza 1 focuses upon the Lamb who ordained the feast
"That dreadful night before His death, the Lamb, for sinners slain,
Did, almost with His dying breath, This solemn feast ordain."
A. It was that same "dreadful" night on which He was betrayed that Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper: 1 Cor. 11:23
B. He did so as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world: Jn. 1:29
C. It was almost with His dying breath that He ordained this solemn feast: Matt. 26:26-29
II. Stanza 2 focuses upon the purpose of the feast
"To keep the feast, Lord, we have met, And to remember Thee;
Help each redeemed one to repeat, ‘For me, He died for me.’"
A. In the first century disciples met on the first day of the week to break bread: Acts 20:7
B. The purpose stated by the apostle Paul for this feast is to remember the death of Christ: 1 Cor. 11:25
C. Therefore, at least in our minds, we need to remember that He died for us as sinners: Rom. 5:8
III. Stanza 3 focuses upon the elements of the feast
"Thy sufferings, Lord, each sacred sign To our remembrance brings;
We eat the bread and drink the wine, But think on nobler things."
A. Each sacred sign brings to our remembrance the suffering of Christ: 1 Pet. 3:18
B. The elements of the supper are the bread and wine or cup: 1 Cor. 10:16
C. But while we eat and drink literal elements, we think on nobler things in order to eat worthily and examine ourselves: 1 Cor. 11:27-29
IV. Stanza 4 focuses upon the celebration of the feast
"Oh, tune our tongues, and set in frame Each heart that pants for Thee,
To sing, ‘Hosanna to the Lamb, The Lamb that died for me.’"
A. The Lord’s supper is like a sermon in which we tune our tongues and frame our hearts to proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes: 1 Cor. 11:26
B. Thus, in it we are, like the people who followed Him into Jerusalem, singing "Hosanna": Matt. 21:9
C. And we are remembering that He is the Lamb who died for us: 1 Pet. 1:19
CONCL.: Some people have objected to the use of the word "wine," as in stanza 3 of this song, for communion hymns because it is never used in scripture to refer to the cup or fruit of the vine used in the Lord’s supper, and perhaps they are afraid that people might think that we should use "real wine" (i.e., fermented) in the communion, whereas the fact that all things that had been leavened were to be eliminated during the Passover week would seem to preclude fermented grape juice since it has undergone a leavening process. However, we often point out in preaching and teaching about social drinking that the word "wine," in Hebrew, Greek, and English, can identify grape juice in general and does not necessarily have to refer to a beverage that is capable of intoxication. Therefore, it may be used to indicate the fresh fruit of the vine. While we should want to make sure that we are truthful and use only scriptural terminology in our songs, we also need to beware of striving about words to no profit. Instead, it should be our aim to think seriously and soberly about the real meaning of "The Solemn Feast."