“Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow”

"The harvest truly is plentous, but the laborers are few" (Matt. 9:37)

     INTRO.: A hymn which points out the blessings of Christ upon those who will be among the few laborers in the Lord’s plenteous harvest is "Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow." The text was written in Danish by Bernhardt Severin Ingemann, who was born on May 28, 1789, at Thor Kildstrup on Falster Island in Denmark, the youngest of five sons of a country Lutheran minister. When Bernhardt was eleven his father died, but his mother was able to provide him with the means for a good education. When the British attacked Copenhagen in 1807 without a declaration of war, young Ingemann helped in defending the city, and the experience made him a staunch patriot, leading him to devote much of his time to the study of Danish history. When he was 22, he published his first book of poems, and three years later, in 1814, The Black Knights, a famous epic, appeared.

     After completing some dramas, Ingemann was appointed a professor of Danish language and literature at the Academy of Soroe at Zealand, where he remained for forty years and wrote much fiction, secular verse, and many hymns, including Morning Hymns in 1822, and Hymns of Worship in 1825, published with Nickolai Grundtvig. His most famous hymn, "Igjennem Nat og Traengsel," was produced in 1825 or 1826 but did not find its way into print until the Nyt Tillaeg til Evangelist-chriselig Psalmebog of Copenhagen in 1859. In 1854, Ingemann was chosen to complete the Psalm Book for Church and Private Devotions. All of his works, many of which were historical romances in the style of Walter Scott that were very popular with Danish young people, were published in 34 volumes in 1851, and he died at Soroe on Feb. 24, 1862. The English translation was made by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924). The author of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "Now the Day is Over," Baring-Gould published the original translation in The People’s Hymnal of 1867, but it was revised for Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1875.

     Seven other of Ingemann’s hymns were translated into English by Gilbert Tait in his 1868 Hymns of Denmark, but this is the only one to have come into common usage. Several tunes have been used or suggested with the hymn, including one (Beecher or Zundel) by John Zundel composed for Charles Wesley’s "Love Divine." The traditional tune (St. Asaph) was composed in 1872 by William Samuel Bambridge (1842-1923). A New Zealand born organist and music professor, he served as choirmaster at Marlborough College in England from 1864 to 1911. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow" appeared in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson with the Bambridge tune; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater with a tune (Hymn to Joy) composed by Ludwig van Beethoven most often associated today with Henry van Dyke’s "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee."

     The song describes the blessings which cause God’s people to go singing on their way.

I. Stanza 1 says that we are pilgrims
"Through the night of doubt and sorrow Onward goes the pilgrim band,
Singing songs of expectation, Marching to the promised land.
Clear before us through the darkness Gleams and burns the guiding light;
Brother clasps the hand of brother, Stepping fearless through the night."
 A. This world is often pictured as a place of night or darkness with doubt and sorrow: 1 Thess. 5:4-8
 B. Those who strive to be Christians are but pilgrims in this world: 1 Pet. 2:11
 C. This world is not our home, but we are marching to the promised land, that city which is to come: Heb. 13:14

II. Stanza 2 says that we have God’s own presence
"One the light of God’s own presence, O’er His ransomed people shed,
Chasing far the gloom of terror, Brightening all the path we tread;
One the object of our journey, One the faith which never tires,
One the earnest looking forward, One the hope our God inspires."
 A. One song that we sing is for the light of God’s own presence, as He is our Father and we His sons and daughters: 2 Cor. 6:16-18
 B. Another song is for the faith by which we walk: 2 Cor. 5:7
 C. Still another song is for our hope which we have in through the gospel: Col. 1:5

III. Stanza 3 says that we have the hope of rejoicing on the eternal shore
"One the strain that lips of thousands Lift as from the heart of one;
One the conflict, one the peril, One the march in God begun;
One the gladness of rejoicing On the far eternal shore,
Where the one almighty Father Reigns in love forevermore."
 A. Yet another song is for the lips of thousands with us who join in our journey: Phil. 3:17
 B. And one other song is for the rejoicing that Jesus makes possible: Phil. 4:4
 C. The basic reason for this rejoicing is that we can look forward to the eternal shore: Rev. 22:1-2

IV. Stanza 4 says that we must continue to go onward for the cross
"Onward, therefore, pilgrim brothers, Onward, with the cross our aid!
Bear its shame, and fight its battle, Till we rest beneath the shade.
Soon shall come the great awaking, Soon the rending of the tomb;
Then the scattering of all shadows, And the end of toil and gloom."
 A. Therefore, singing, we must press onward: Phil. 3:13-14
 B. What helps us to press onward is the cross and its message of salvation: 1 Cor. 1:18
 C. Thus, again, we look forward to the great awaking when the final victory shall be ours: 1 Cor. 15:51-54

     CONCL.: The pictures in this hymn come from Israel’s journey through the wilderness to the promised land. Albert Edward Bailey wrote, "There is a greater unity of structure, a finer feeling for form, and a sharper definition of imagery in this hymn than in most others." Judging from its appearance in older hymnbooks, it must have been quite popular at one time, but it is found in very few hymnbooks available today.  Certainly, we need the encouragement of God’s blessings as we march "Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow."


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