“Sing with All the Sons of Glory”

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20)

     INTRO.: A hymn which emphasizes the blessings that we have because Christ is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of those who sleep is "Sing with All the Sons of Glory." The text was written by William Josiah (sometimes given as Joseph and other times as Jonah) Irons, who was born on Sept. 12, 1812, at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, England, the son of Joseph Irons, a builder turned Independent or non-conformist preacher who also produced hymns and friend of John Newton. After graduating from Queens College, Oxford, in 1833, William became a minister with the Church of England in 1835 and began serving at St. Mary in Newington from 1835 to 1837, during which time his interest in hymn writing and translating began and continued to his death, and he is credited with over thirty hymns and several translations, the best known of which was "Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning," made from the Latin hymn "Dies Irae" in 1848. Many of his efforts were first published as broadsheets and were later included in Hymns for the Christian Seasons, published by R. T. Lowe in 1854 and Hymns by Hayes in 1867, as well as his own collections, including the Metrical Psalter of 1855, Appendix to the Brompton Metrical Psalter of 1861, Hymns for Use in Church of 1866,
and Psalms and Hymns for the Church, which underwent three editions–1873, 1875, and 1883.

     In 1837 Irons moved to St. Peter’s in Walworth; and following that to Barkway in Hertfordshire; Brompton in London; Wadingham; St. Mary-Woolnoth, where John Newton had once ministered; and finally to St. Paul’s Cathedral beginning in 1872. Earning his Doctor of Divinity degree in 1854, he took part in the ecclesiastical controveries of his day, and published extensively in the form of Sermons, Letters, and Pamplhets. His most important work, the Bampton Lectures of 1870, was on Christianity as Taught by St. Paul. It was the 1873 edtion of Psalms and Hymns for the Church which first included this particular hymn under the heading "Now is Christ risen from the dead" (though some sources give the date 1875). It originally began, "Sing with all the sons of men." It is not known just when it was changed to its present form, but the third edition of Irons’s book, published shortly before his death in London, England, on June 18, 1883, has the alteration, so it is assumed that the author himself revised the hymn, changing even the meter. Several tunes have been used or suggested for the hymn, including one (Summerside) composed by John Black. Some older books have another (Sponsa) composed by S. Nottingham.

     Most modern books use one (Hymn to Joy) taken from the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven which is most often associated with Henry van Dyke’s "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee." Still another tune (Faben) which I like and well fits the song was composed in 1849 by Joseph Henry Wilcox (1827-1875). A native of Savannah, GA, who attended Trinity College in Hartford, CT, he was an organist and spent most of his life in Boston, MA. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared with the Beethoven tune in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it is found, again with the Beethoven tune, in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann. Some modern denominational hymnals, bowing to the dictates of feminists who demand that all "sexist" language be purged from hymns, have changed the title and first line of the song to "Sing with All the Saints in Glory." For example, The Methodist Hymnals of 1935 and 1964 have "Sing with All the Sons of Glory," but The United Methodist Hymnal of 1989 has "Sing with All the Saints in Glory."

     The song exhorts us to sing praise to God for the blessings of Christ’s resurrection.

I. Stanza 1 says that we can look forward to waking in God’s own likeness
"Sing with all the sons of glory, Sing the resurrection song;
Death and sorrow, earth’s dark story, To the former days belong.
Even now the day is breaking, Soon the night of time shall cease,
And, in God’s own likeness waking, Man shall know eternal peace."
 A. It is the resurrection of Christ that is the basis for our living hope: 1 Pet. 1:3
 B. Someday the night of time shall cease when the Lord returns: 2 Pet. 3:10
 C. Then, the righteous will awake in God’s own likeness to eternal peace: Phil. 3:20-21

II. Stanza 2 says that we can look forward to a welcome
"O what glory, far exceeding All that eye has yet perceived!
Holiest hearts, for ages pleading, Never that full joy conceived.
God has promised, Christ prepares it, There on high our welcome waits;
Every humble spirit shares it: Christ hath passed th’eternal gates."
 A. Even though Paul is not talking about heaven, his language that "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" certainly applies to what awaits us in eternal life: 1 Cor. 2:9
 B. God has prepared that kingdom for His people from the foundation of the world: Matt. 25:34
C. There, the righteous will receive the welcome to "enter in": Matt. 25:21

III. Stanza 3 says that we can look forward to glory in heaven
"Life eternal! Heaven rejoices! Jesus lives who once was dead;
Join, O man, the deathless voices, Child of God, lift up thy head.
Patriarchs from distant ages, Saints all longing for their heaven,
Prophets, psalmists, seers, and sages, All await the glory given."
 A. The promise of eternal life that God has given is based on the fact that Jesus lives who once was dead: Rev. 1:18
 B. Even prophets and others from distant ages looked forward to this promise: 1 Pet. 1:10-12
 C. Thus, we also await the glory of heaven: Col. 3:3-4

IV. Stanza 4 says that we can look forward to standing before the throne and seeing Jesus Christ
"Life eternal! O what wonders Crowd on faith; what joy unknown,
When, amidst earth’s closing thunders, Saints shall stand before the throne!
O to enter that bright portal, See that glowing firmament,
Know, with Thee, O God immortal, Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent!"
 A. Thus, because of the resurrection of Christ, God has promised us eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
 B. As a result, we can look forward to standing before the throne of God in heaven: Rev. 4:2, 22:1-3
 C. Then we shall see Jesus Christ as He is: 1 Jn. 3:1-3

CONCL.: Somewhere along the way, the last four lines of the first stanza were changed to:
"All around the clouds are breaking, Soon the storms of time shall cease,
In God’s likeness, man, awaking, Knows the everlasting peace."
This change is found in all Methodist Hymnals in my collection and is followed by the Christian Hymnal and Great Songs Revised. I am assuming that perhaps someone thought that the original may have sounded a bit premillennial, but I do not see a whole lot of difference between the two (although it may be that Irons himself made this change in his later books). As we think about the blessings that Christ makes possible for sinful mankind through His resurrection from the dead, we should surely want to "Sing with All the Sons of Glory."


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s