"THE SUN DECLINES"
"Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee" (Ps. 139:12)
INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us that the darkness cannot hide from God but the darkness and the light are both alike to Him is "The Sun Declines." The text was written by Robert Walmsley, who was born on Mar. 18, 1831, at Manchester, England. A Congregationalist, for some 28 years he was associated with the work of the Manchester Sunday School Union, and many of his hymns were produced for an annual festival there. In 1870, he moved to Sale, England, where he worked as a jeweler. "The Sun Declines," intended as an evening hymn, is dated 1893. Its first known publication was in the Scottish Church Hymnary of 1898. In December of 1900, Walmsley published 44 of his hymns as Sacred Songs for Children of All Ages, which included "The Sun Declines," along with "Praise the Lord, His Works Exalt Him" dated 1888, "O Praise Our God Today" dated 1899, and "Come, Let Us Sing of a Wonderful Love." James Mearns, who provided the entry on Walmsley in John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology, wrote of Walmsley’s hymns, "They are simple, musical, full of a deep love of God, of the works of God in anture, and of little children, and deserve to be more extensively used." Walmsley died at Sale, England, on Oct. 30, 1905
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, stanzas 1 and 3 of the text 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. These books use a tune (Vincent) composed by Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907). However, it is most often associated with Sybil F. Partridge’s hymn "Just for Today" beginning, "Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray." Today, "The Sun Declines" may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann, also having only stanzas 1 and 3 but with a tune (Wentworth) composed by Frederick C. Maker (1831-1905). It was first published in The Bristol Tune Book, second series, compiled by Maker in 1876. Each stanza of the hymn has eight lines, but Maker’s tune has only six lines, so in 1985 Jack Boyd, music editor for Great Songs Revised, repeated the last two lines of music to fit the lyrics and made further alterations in both harmony and melody, which were copyrighted by ACU Press.
The song asks God’s blessings in the evening with a view toward the eventide of life and the home beyond it.
I. Stanza 1 seeks the Lord’s presence as night comes
"The sun declines; o’er land and sea Creeps on the night.
The twinkling stars come one by one To shed their light.
With Thee there is no darkness, Lord; With us abide,
And ‘neath Thy wings we rest secure This eventide."
A. God made the sun to rule the day, and as the earth turns on its axis it appears as if the sun rises from one end of the heaven and runs its circuit to the other end: Ps. 19:1-6
B. When the day is done, the twinkling stars come out to shed their light during the night: Gen. 1:14-19
C. We should seek the Lord’s presence to abide with us that we might rest secure during the night: Ps. 91:1-5
II. Stanza 2 seeks the Lord’s forgiveness of any sin during the day
"Forgive the wrong this day we’ve done, Or thought, or said;
Each moment with its good or ill To Thee has fled.
O Father, in Thy mercy great Will we confide;
Thy benediction now bestow This eventide."
A. It is good when we pillow our heads at night to seek the Lord’s forgiveness for any sin that we committed during the day: 1 Jn. 1:9
B. Since the moments of the day, whether good or ill, have now flown to God, it should encourage us to redeem the time that we have: Eph. 5:15-17
C. Because all of us have sinned, we must trust in God’s mercy in order to be right with Him here and saved in eternity: Heb. 4:16
III. Stanza 3 seeks the Lord’s guidance through life to the eternal home
"And when with morning light we rise, Kept by thy care,
We’ll lift to Thee with grateful hearts Our morning prayer;
Be Thou through life our Strength and Stay, Our Guard and Guide,
To that dear home where there will be No eventide."
A. Having been kept by God’s care through the night, we can anticipate rising with the morning light to another day of praising God: Ps. 139:17-18
B. As we live from day to day we should turn to Him as our Strength and Stay to guard and guide us on our way: Ps. 32:8
C. And with this help, we look forward to that dear home where there will be no eventide because the glory of God will be its eternal light: Rev. 21:23-25
CONCL.: This is one of those hymns which appeared in a couple of our hymnbooks a relatively long time ago. I have no idea whether it was sung very much even when a large number of churches used the first two Great Songs books. Since it has not been found in most of our recent books, with the exception of Great Songs Revised which never did seem to become very popular, I would assume that not many brethren are likely familiar with it. However, it is quite a pleasant song that would serve well for a hymn that we can sing in a Sunday night or midweek evening service as "The Sun Declines."