Title: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
Numeric Outline: 188.8.131.52
Composer: Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
Author: Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
To say that Horatius Bonar had a family history of serving in the Church of Scotland would be an understatement. With Nearly 364 years of service in the church, it was no question what would become of Horatius at some point in his life. Horatius was born December 19th, 1808 to James Bonar who was at the time the Solicitor of Excise in Scotland. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Horatius stayed in his hometown and studied at the local High School and the University where, in 1837, he was ordained in the church, and became an assistant to Rev. John Lewis, Minister of St. James's, Leith, Scotland. In November of that same year, Bonar left St. James and became Minister of North Perish, Kelso, Scotland. In 1843, because of a "great disruption," in the church, Bonar left the his position at North Perish and joined the Free Church of Scotland. In 1853, the University of Aberdeen conferred upon Bonar the Doctorate of Divinity, which eventually would lead him back to Edinburgh in 1866, when he was placed at Chalmers Memorial Church, The Grange, Edinburgh. This was Bonar's last call, but in 1883, he was chosen to be the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. He was well known for being a poet, but he was not very well known as a preacher.
The works of Bonar have been published in several different texts including The Bible Hymnal (1845), Hymns of Faith and Hope (first series 1857, second series, 1861, and third series, 1866), all of which contained numerous texts. It is believed that because Bonar had composed so many different texts, it was impossible for his work to become infamous as a whole, but individual hymns have stood the test of time and remain famous today. In his works, one can recognize his use of many different allusions, but also that he was affected greatly by the emotions found not only in the spiritual life, but in the natural life as well. Nearly 100 of Bonar's hymns are commonly used in Great Britain and the United States today.
Though it is not well known, the tune Kingsfold is known as an old English folk song. The tune is written in e minor, but also can be considered a modal tune. It wasn't until Ralph Vaughn Williams heard the folk song in Kingsfold, Sussex, England, that the tune was actually named. After Vaughn Williams at heard the tune, he decided that he was going to arrange the tune so that it may be set to the text of "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say," in his collection English Hymnal, published in 1906. The tune is not well known, but by itself it is a strong and dignified tune which can be sung either with melody alone and be just a haunting as if it were sung in harmony.
(1) I heard the voice of Jesus say,"Come unto me and rest;Lay down, thou weary one, lay downThy head upon my breast."I came to Jesus as I was,Weary and worn and sad,I found in him a resting place,And he has made me glad.
(2) I heard the voice of Jesus say,"Behold, I freely giveThe living water; thirsty one,Stoop down and drink, and live."I came to Jesus, and I drankOf that life-giving stream;My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,And now I live in him.
(3) I heard the voice of Jesus say,"I am this dark world's Light;Look unto me, thy morn shall rise,And all thy day be bright."I looked to Jesus, and I foundIn him my Star, my Sun;And in that light of life I'll walk,Till trav'ling days are done.
My Take on the Hymn:
Trusting that Jesus will be there for you when you need it most is one of the hardest demands that God has for us. Jesus is with us all of our days, but before we can find the comfort of Jesus, we must be called to him. In one of my favorite bible verses (Matthew 11: 27), Jesus says "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," which tells us that knowing Jesus and knowing God is in itself not a right, but a gift from the Holy Trinity. The hymn is all about hearing the voice of Jesus call to the voice of the text, and after Jesus was heard, the voice of the text had lost all weariness and hopelessness because they believed in the power of Christ. As a reminder to us everyday, the third verse says "I am this dark world's Light," which tells us that with the coming of the dawn, Christ is reborn in us each and every day! Everything that is earthly and made by humans has an expiration date, everything decays. From the moment a child is born, their clock begins ticking and does not stop, a car just off the assembly line starts to age, a piano just made begins to age, even the steel structures that seem to jet into the skies above begin to decay. The only thing on this earth that does not age any more than one day, is Jesus' love and our faith in Him. With the coming of dawn on each new day, our faith is reborn in us so that we may live and discover God's love for us yet again!