"COME, HOLY SPIRIT, DOVE DIVINE"
"And Jesus, when He was baptized… saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him" (Matt. 3:16)
INTRO.: A hymn which seeks the influence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are baptized is "Come, Holy Spirit, Dove Divine." The text was written by Adoniram Judson, who was born on Aug. 9, 1788, at Malden, MA, the son of a Congregationalist minister. Receiving his education at Rhode Island College (now Brown University), graduating with an A.B. in 1807, and Andover Theological Seminary, he became one of the first foreign missionaries from America when in 1812 he and his wife, Anne Hasseltine, sailed for India under the Congregational Church’s American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. While studying the New Testament en route, he was convinced concerning the action of baptism and was immersed after arriving in Calcutta by English Baptist Missionary William Ward. In 1813, The Judsons were compelled to leave India by the Brittish East India Company and settled in Burma (now Myanmar), where he was imprisoned for many months due to a bitter conflict between the armies of the Burmese and the British. It was not until after preaching for six years that the first convert was baptized.
In 1829, for the baptism of several soldiers at Maulmein in British Pegu, he produced a seven-stanza hymn beginning:
"Our Savior bowed beneath the wave, And meekly sought a watery grave;
Come see the sacred path He trod–A path well pleasing to our God."
It was first published in Thomas B. Ripley’s Selection of Hymns, second edition, in 1831. The altered version most commonly used today, consisting of the last four stanzas beginning with the seventh, appeared in Winchell’s Collection of 1832. In 1834 Judson completed a translation of the Bible into Burmese. His return to the United States for a year’s furlough in 1845 greatly increased the interest for missionary activity in this country. His later years were spent largely in compiling a Burmese-English dictionary and grammar. While on a sea voyage for his health, he died in the Bay of Bengal on Apr. 12, 1850, and was buried at sea.
Judson’s hymn has been set to several tunes, including one (Duke Street) composed by John Hatton that in our books is usually associated with John Needham’s "Awake, My Tongue, Thy Tribute Bring," and another (Maryton) composed by Henry Percy Smith that is most often used with Washington Gladden’s "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee." However, another tune (Rockingham New) that fits well with the song was composed in 1830 by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). The entire hymn was frequently printed in Disciple hymnbooks of the nineteenth century, including those of Alexander Campbell, but Forrest McCann noted, "Hymnals of the Stone-Campbell Movement have always changed Judson’s ‘Dove divine’ (1:1) to ‘Guest divine.’" 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 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today, it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand (all of these beginning "Come, Holy Spirit, Guest Divine," and having the Hatton tune); and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard (using the term "Dove Divine" and with the Smith tune). For this study, I have taken the hymn as usually found with stanzas 7, 4, 5, and 6, then added the omitted stanzas 2 and 3.
The song reminds us that the Holy Spirit, as a member of the godhead, is active in our conversion too.
I. Stanza 1 encourages us to praise the Lamb for sinners slain
"Come, Holy Spirit, Dove divine, On these baptismal waters shine,
And teach our hearts, in highest strain, To praise the Lamb for sinners slain."
(Ripley changed the second line to "On us with beams of mercy shine"–
but most books today return to Judson’s original.)
A. While we do not look for the Holy Spirit to come in as literal a fashion as He did at Jesus’s baptism, the Bible does teach that those who repent and are baptized do receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:38
B. The Holy Spirit does teach us, and the means by which He does so is the word which His sword or means of operation: Eph. 6:17
C. One thing that He teaches us is to praise the Lamb for sinners slain: Jn. 1:29
II. Stanza 2 encourages us to to embrace Christ’s cause
"We love Thy name, we love Thy laws, And joyfully embrace Thy cause;
We love Thy cross, the shame, the pain, O Lamb of God for sinners slain."
A. In baptism, we show that we love Christ’s name and His laws because those who love Christ will keep His commandments: Jn. 15:14
B. Baptism is the act in which we joyfully embrace His cause because when we are baptized into Christ, we put on Christ: Gal. 3:26-27
C. We love His cross, the shame, and pain, in the sense that we glory in what He did for us there: Gal. 6:14
III. Stanza 3 encourages us to seek the cleansing blood of Christ
"We sink beneath Thy mystic flood; O bathe us in Thy cleansing blood.
We die to sin, and seek a grave With Thee beneath the yielding wave."
(The original read "We plunge beneath the mystic flood; O plunge us in Thy cleansing blood."
Some books read, "We sink beneath the water’s face, And thank Thee for Thy saving grace.")
A. We sink beneath the mystic flood because we are buried with Christ in baptism: Col. 2:12
B. In baptism, it is the blood of Christ that cleanses us from our sins: Eph. 1:7
C. Thus, it is baptism that we die to sin and are buried in that watery grave: Rom. 6:3
IV. Stanza 4 encourages us to rise that we might live with Christ
"And, as we rise, with Thee to live, O let the Holy Spirit give
The sealing unction from above, The breath of life, the fire of love."
(Great Songs Revised changes "The sealing unction" to "Our God’s anointing."
Other modern books change "The breath of life" to "The joy of life.")
A. Having died and been buried, we then rise to walk in newness of life: Rom. 6:4
B. As new creatures, we look to the Holy Spirit to give us the sealing unction or anointing from above, which I understand to be the guidance and direction that He provides through the written word: 1 Jn. 2:27
C. This was symbolized when Jesus breathed on the disciples and said that they would receive the Holy Spirit: Jn. 20:22
V. Stanza 5 encourages us to hear and follow Christ
"His voice we hear, His footsteps trace, And hither come to seek His face,
To do His will, to feel His love, And join our songs with songs above."
A. We must listen to the voice of Jesus: Matt. 17:5
B. Having heard Him, we must trace His footsteps: 1 Pet. 2:21
C. It is only when we do the will of the Father that we can hope to join our songs with those above: Matt. 7:21
VI. Stanza 6 encourages us to look forward to being around the throne in heaven
"Hosanna to the Lamb divine! Let endless glories round Him shine;
High o’er the heavens for ever reign, O Lamb of God, for sinners slain."
A. "Hosanna" is a word of praise that literally means, "Save, we pray": Matt. 21:9-15
B. We should praise Jesus because glories round Him shine as He reigns high over the heavens: Acts 2:30-32
C. But we also praise Him because He is the Lamb of God who was slain for us: Rev. 5:6-10
CONCL.: And as usual, many modern books "update" the language by changing "Thy" to "Your" and "Thee" to "You." Those who feel that songs addressed to the Holy Spirit are unscriptural will certainly not care for this song. However, we do not have a large number of songs that were specifically written for baptism, and those who believe that there is no scriptural principle violated by addressing a song to the Holy Spirit that simply calls upon Him to do what the scriptures teach that He will do, might find that this song, understanding the figurative nature of its language, could be useful when one is baptized to ask, "Come, Holy Spirit, Dove Divine."