“Hail to the Brightness”

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee….And the Gentlies shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa. 60:1-3)

     INTRO.: A hymn which, using the language of the prophets, pictures the church as shining forth the glory of the Lord to whom kings shall come to its light is "Hail to the Brightness." The text was written by Thomas Hastings (1784-1827). The tune (Wesley) was composed by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). The song was produced in 1830 or 1831 and first published in the 1832 Spiritual Songs for Social Worship edited by Hastings and Mason.  This hymn is a bit unusual because both Hastings and Mason were musicians, not poets, and usually provided melodies for the words of others.  While they worked together in their publishing efforts, with Hastings in New York City, NY, and Mason in Boston, MA, this is one of the rare instances where they actually collaborated on a hymn.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1925 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; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie. The text was used with another tune in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, the song may 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.

     The song uses the prophetic language of the Old Testament to picture the establishment of the church.

I. Stanza 1 says that it came with joy
"Hail to the brightness of Zion’s glad morning;
Joy to the lands that in error have lain!
Hushed be the accents of sorrow and mourning;
Zion in triumph begins her mild reign."
 A. The prophet pictures the Messianic kingdom as one where people would with joy draw water from the wells of salvation: Isa. 12:3
 B. Therefore, the accents of sorrow and mourning or sighing would be hushed and flee away: Isa. 51:11
 C. The name that the prophets gave to the coming Messianic kingdom was Zion: Isa. 14:32

II. Stanza 2 says that it was foretold by the prophets
"Hail to the brightness of Zion’s glad morning,
Long by the prophets of Israel foretold;
Hail to the millions from bondage returning!
Gentiles and Jews the blest vision behold."
 A. The prophets foretold that the word of the Lord would go forth from Zion: Isa. 2:1-3
 B. Like the Israelites returning from captivity to Jerusalem, so would millions return from bondage to Zion: Isa. 11:11
 C. This would include both Gentiles and Jews: Isa. 62:1-2

III. Stanza 3 says that it is like the springing of flowers in the desert
"Lo, in the desert rich flowers are springing;
Streams ever copious are gliding along.
Loud from the mountaintops echoes are ringing;
Wastes rise in verdure and mingle in song."
 A. The prophet pictured the coming of Zion as when the desert would blossom as the rose: Isa. 35:1-2
 B. As a result, loud echoes would be ringing from the mountaintops: Isa. 30:17
 C. The prophets often pictured the prosperity of the Messianic kingdom as that of wastes rising in verdure: Isa. 61:4

IV. Stanza 4 says that it sends praise to Jehovah
"See, from all lands, from the isles of the ocean,
Praise to Jehovah ascending on high.
Fallen are the engines of war and commotion;
Shouts of salvation are rending the sky."
 A. In Zion, from all lands, even from the isles and coasts of the oceans, would songs be sung to Jehovah: Isa. 24:14-16
 B. The purpose of these songs of Zion would be to offer praise to Jehovah who established her: Isa. 42:10
 C. The reason why these songs are sung is because salvation has been made available to all mankind: Isa. 25:9

     CONCL.: This is another one of those songs of previous generations which seemed to be immensely popular in former days but appears to be almost forgotten in our time. Perhaps, it is because many who identify themselves as "Christians" have been so influenced by multiculturalism that they no longer believe that the church’s message of salvation in Christ should be spread throughout the whole world. Perhaps, it is because even some who are associated with the New Testament church of our Lord no longer understand the importance of the church as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies in God’s plan for the redemption of mankind.  Perhaps, it is just because a lot of people no longer think that this "old fashioned language" (much of which is drawn directly from the scriptures) really has any relevance in today’s world. Whatever the cause, it is a pity. It is good to be reminded of that time when the whole world was in readiness for Zion’s glad morning and and said, "Hail to the Brightness."


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