“Jesus, the Light of the World”

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world…” (Jn. 8:12)

     INTRO.:  A song which proclaims that Jesus is the Light of the world is “Jesus, the Light of the World.”  Both the text and the tune (We’ll Walk in the Light) are probably anonymous, of American frontier origin, and have apparently been arranged by different individuals for various purposes.  In some books they are both attributed to George D. Elderkin (19th c.).  This is probably the result of the fact that the chorus appeared with Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing” as arranged by Elderkin in James M. Black’s 1898 The Chorus of Praise published by Eaton and Main of New York City, NY.  Also both text and tune have been attributed to James Vincent Coombs, who was born on a farm in Boone County, IN, in 1849.  In 1867, he entered the academy at Ladoga, IN, and began teaching in 1868.  In 1870 he became a student at Northwestern Christian University, where he remained two years, and then enrolled at Eureka College in 1873.  After teaching several years in public schools, he was elected to the presidency of the Indiana Normal College at Ladoga in 1879, where he remained two years.  In 1882 he was graduated from the classical department of Chicago University and the following year was elected to the chair of Literature and History at Eureka College. 

     In 1885 Coombs entered the lecture field and achieved much renown as a platform lecturer, filling engagements in forty states and territories.  In 1888 he was married to Miss Allie Marlatt of Covington, IN, to which union was born a little girl.  The following year, he became a general evangelist for Christian Churches from his home in Irvington, IN.  One year he preached 180 nights without the loss of one evening.  After a few days of rest he started again and spoke 190 nights in succession.  Thousands were added to the Lord’s church under his preaching.  The 1910 Centennial Convention Report edited by W. R. Warren contains J. V. Coombs’s “Introduction of Evangelists,” and The Indiana Pulpit of 1912 edited by William Henry Book contains an item by the editor about J. V. Coombs, who later died in 1920.  It is likely that Coombs arranged the song for use in hymnbooks published among Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.  The Hymnary.org lists some thirteen “Hymn Texts by J. V. Coombs” but they are all under the heading “People—Coombs, J. V., Mrs..”  So it is unclear whether it was Mr. or Mrs. Coombs (or perhaps both working together) who gave us the song.

     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 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson, with chorus only, and the tune ascribed to “J. V. C;” the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb with the text ascribed to “J. V. C.” and the tune said to be “arr.;” and the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons, with no author listed but the tune said to be “arr.”  The 1959 Christian Hymnal (Mennonite) has practically the same hymn with both text and tune ascribed to “George D. Elderkin.”  However, the 1903 Best Hymns No. 3 edited by Harold F. Sayles for the Evangelical Publ. Co., Chicago, IL, has four different stanzas by Elijah Albright Hoffman copyrighted in 1899 with the same chorus:
1. “Angels up in heaven adore Jesus, the light of the world,
Sing His praises evermore, Jesus, the light of the world.”
2. “He illumines all the way, Jesus, the light of the world,
Turns our darkness into day, Jesus, the light of the world.”
3. “He makes clear the path before, Jesus, the light of the world,
And reveals Himself the more, Jesus, the light of the world.”
4. “Hail to Him, the Prince of Peace, Jesus, the light of the world!
Hail the sun of Righteousness, Jesus, the light of the world!”

     The song points us to the Light that came to this world in the person of Jesus Christ.

I. Stanza 1 encourages us to proclaim the Light
“All ye saints of light proclaim, ‘Jesus, the light of the world;
Life and mercy in His name, Jesus, the light of the world.’”
 A. Saints are those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus: 1 Cor. 1:1-2
 B. Saints dwell in the light: Col. 1:12-13
 C. These saints are to proclaim the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into light: 1 Pet. 2:9

II. Stanza 2 encourages us to hear the Light
“Hear the Savior’s earnest call, Jesus, the light of the world;
Send the Gospel truth to all, Jesus, the light of the world.”
 A. God wants us to hear His Son: Matt. 17:5
 B. The Savior’s earnest call is to come to Him for rest: Matt. 11:28-30
 C. Therefore, the saints should send the gospel truth to all because it is the power of God to salvation: Rom. 1:16

III. Stanza 3 encourages us to seek the Light
“Why not seek Him then today, Jesus, the light of the world?
Go with truth the narrow way, Jesus, the light of the world.”
 A. The Lord wants everyone to seek Him: Acts 17:27
 B. And everyone should seek Him today since today is the day of salvation: 2 Cor. 6:2
 C. Seeking Him means going with truth in the narrow way: Matt. 7:13-14

IV. Stanza 4 encourages us to confess the Light
“Come, confess Him as your King, Jesus, the light of the world;
Then the bells of heaven will ring, Jesus, the light of the world.”
(Christian Hymnal Mennonite: “Then the hosts of heaven will sing…”)
 A. Jesus tells us that we must confess Him: Matt. 10:32
 B. One thing that we need to confess about Jesus is that He is our King: Rev, 19:16
 C. When we do this, the bells of heaven will ring, symbolizing the joy of the angels over one sinner who comes to repentance: Lk. 15:7

     CONCL.:  The chorus encourages us to walk in the light of Jesus Christ.
“We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light, Come where the dewdrops of mercy are bright,
Shine all around us by day and by night, Jesus, the light of the world.”
No reasonable person wants to live in complete physical darkness, and no one should want to live in spiritual darkness either.  Therefore, we ought to be thankful that we can come to and live in “Jesus, the Light of the World.”


2 thoughts on ““Jesus, the Light of the World”

  1. I am amazed that I found this blog and it provided me with the conclusion of my sermon for Christmas 2011. I sit here with so much gratitude for my Jehovah Jireh that would provide this light. Title of sermon: “The Living Word Lighting the World” Text: John 1:1-14. Evangelizing Until Eternity is the vision that came while I was reading this at 4:47am


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