Hymns and Spiritual Songs of God’s Christ by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)
This submission of Hymns and Spiritual Songs is unusual in several ways. Darby has influenced me as a Christian perhaps greater than any single Christian outside the Bible. The Plymouth Brethren writers and doctrines has had enormous impact on me throughout my entire Christian life. And finally, in regards to spiritual poetry and hymns and songs, Darby and the Brethren have guided me into the blessed and happy place of joy and love in truth and peace in God’s Christ among fellow Christians in the churches in all my wanderings and adventures of life. Not wishing to speak any further on Darby in my evaluation and esteem, I will offer Julian’s article in his Dictionary of Hymnology which shows a greater context of Plymouth Brethren’s value and place and history in the Body of Christ at large. The 9 selections are here given to cover a wide range of this type of worship and praise.
((From Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology 1892. (pages 898-899):
“Plymouth Brethren Hymnody. The sect popularly known as the Plymouth Brethren was in its earliest stage called ‘The Brethren’, because its members professed to meet solely on the ground that they were brethren in Christ. Eventually, however, the branch of it which met at Plymouth, Devon, chiefly from the position, learning, and labours of its members, acquired so great influence in the society as to give its name to the whole body, and it was thenceforth known as ‘The Plymouth Brethren’. In giving an account of the hymns and hymn-books of The Brethren, it is necessary to refer somewhat to the history of the sect. For the purpose of our article it will be convenient to divide thus :— Period I. From the commencement of the sect to the year 1848. Period II. From the year 1848 to 1889.
‘Period I’.—Between the years 1828-33 a custom arose in Dublin, Bristol, Plymouth, and elsewhere for certain persons, irrespective of creed, to meet together for prayer, the joint study of the Scriptures, and mutual aid in spiritual matters generally. The principle on which they acted is thus put forth by one of their early associates, “the possession of the common life” (in Jesus Christ) and “that disciples should bear as Christ does with many errors of their brethren.” At first the assemblies so formed did not in any way interfere with the worship of the members in the various churches and chapels to which they belonged; indeed their meetings were held at an early hour on Sunday morning so that they should not do so. But soon the separatist principle began to make itself manifest. With many, separation from religious communities was held to be the only means of promoting unity among Christians, and finally Mr. Darby, an author of some repute, who at one time held an Irish curacy, gained so much ascendency as to bring the desired separation about, and their meetings have ever since been held as distinct from other religious denominations. They were united as a body and known under one name, ‘The Plymouth Brethren’, till the year 1848.
This period produced many hymn-writers who put forth a great number of hymns, some of which are very beautiful, and all of which, without doubt, helped either to form or to strengthen the Society. The principal hymn writers during this period were the following :—Chapman, K. C.: Darby, J. N.; Deck, J. G.; Danny, Sir Edward,” Bart.; Kelly, Thomas (?[=William]); Tregelles, S. Prideaux, Ltd.; and Wigram, G. V.
The hymn-books put forward and used by the ‘Plymouth Brethren’ during this period were many. They include:—
(1) ‘Hymns for the use of the Church of Christ’, by ‘R. C. Chapman’, ‘Minister of the Gospel, Barnstaple’. A New Edition, to which to added an Appendix selected from various sources by John Chapman. (First edition 1837.) Reprinted 1852. London. The number of hymns written by R. C. Chapman are In all 58. Those collected number 157, and are, as the title seta forth, by various
authors, some of whom were Brethren, and some of other denominations. Amongst the Brethren, Darby, Deck, Denny, and Kelly are found.
(2) ‘A Selection of Hymns’ by Sir Edward Denny, Bart. London and Dublin. 1st ed. 1839. This book contains many hymns by the editor, at least 36 being written by himself. Chapman, Darby, Deck, Kelly, Tregelles, Wigram amongst the Brethren are also represented.
(3) ‘Hymns for the Poor of the Flock’: London. Edited by G. V. Wigram. When compared with the foregoing this selection contains a special feature, namely, “Hymns arranged for Special Occasions,” e.g. for “Baptism,” “Christian Sabbath,” ” Evening,”*’Graces,” “Introductory to Prayer,” ” Lord’s Day,” ‘ Lord’s Day Evening,” “Lord’s Day Morning,” Lord’s Supper.” “Morning,” ” Parting,” ‘ For Trial and Solitude.” The hymns in the body of this work are gathered from a variety of sources of Brethren hymn-writers. Deck and Kelly are strongly represented. Darby and Chapman also contribute. The editor wrote one. The ‘Appendix’ contains 40 hymns, and of these Denny wrote over 20.
(4) ‘Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs. In Two Parts’. Part I. “Intended specially for the united worship of the Children of God.” Part li. “Chiefly for Private Meditation.” London, 1843. This compilation is the work of J. G. Deck. Many writers contributed. From their own body Denny, Kelly, and Tregelles. Part i. has Hymns on Burial, Resurrection, and the Lord’s Supper. Part ii. contains many hymns common to most hymn-books. Denny contributed 15. Darby and the Editor are also represented.
‘Period II’.— In 1845 a controversy began which ended in a division of the ‘Plymouth Brethren’. The Lord’s Advent was ever a favourite theme with them, and it was a difference of opinion on this subject between two of their leaders which was the primary cause of the rupture. Mr. Darby promulgated the theory that our Lord’s coming for His saints would be a secret coming, while His coming to judgment would be open and seen by all. Mr. Newton, a man of high attainments and who had taken Holy Orders, protested against these statements. Mr. Darby retaliated by accusing Mr. Newton (about two years later) with teaching heresy concerning the Humanity of our Lord in a pamphlet which the Brethren had circulated for ten years. Mr. Newton withdrew the pamphlet; but this did not satisfy Mr. Darby and his followers. They seceded from those who held with Mr. Newton, excommunicated them, and called upon the Brethren elsewhere to do the same. Mr. Darby, in this matter, met with the greatest opposition in Bristol, and from Mr. Muller (the founder of the Orphanage on Ashley Down), and those who met with him. They resolved not to judge Mr. Newton. On this the Darby party excommunicated the Muller party, and all those who held with them. This they did in 1848, and from that time the ‘Plymouth Brethren’ have been divided into two main sections: (1) The Plymouth or Exclusive Brethren. This section allows other Christians to meet with them on certain conditions, unless they belong to the Open Brethren; these they rigidly exclude. (2) The Open or Bristol Brethren, which admits to fellowship, as from the first, all who profess to be Christians.
This period has not been fruitful in the production of hymns. Neither section has brought forth any new hymn-writer of note, and but few hymn-books have been compiled. Besides those collections in use before the division of the Society the Plymouth or Exclusive section has put forth bat one which is at all generally used, namely : —
‘A Few Hymns and some Spiritual Songs, Selected, for the Little Flock’, 1856. Revised 1881. London. This book was compiled by J. N. Darby. Previous to l881 it contained 341 hymns, but at its revision an Appendix was added containing 85 more. Many of the hymns in this book are Darby’s own. There are also selections from Chapman, Deck, Kelly, Tregelles, and Wigram.
Besides the foregoing work the following books of poetry, which, though they cannot be called hymn-books pure and simple, yet contain many hymns, have been written by members of the ‘Plymouth Brethren’.
(1) ‘Hymns and Poems by Sir Edward Denny, Bart.’, 1848. It contains ” Millennial Hymns,” with an “Introduction”; ” Miscellaneous Hymns “; “Miscellaneous Poems.” 3rd ed. London: 1870.
(2) ‘Spiritual Songs by J. N. Darby’. Dublin. Entered at Stationers’ Hall. London. 1883.
The ‘Open Brethren’ have put forth two hymn-books:—
(1) ‘Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Children of God’. Alphabetically arranged. 8th ed. Stereotyped. London. 1871. This selection contains more than 400, which are far more general in character than those of the Exclusive section. They are gathered from all sources, the Brethren being represented by Chapman, Darby, Deck, Kelly, Tregelles, and Wigram. In the Index the names of the writers of the hymns are given, a peculiarity worthy of notice, as it is found in no other hymn book of either section. The hymns are arranged under the following heads: “Hymns for Worship,” “Scripture,” “Reading and Prayer,” “Private Use,” “Meals,” “Marriage.” “Bringing little Children to Jesus,” “Baptism,” “Burial,” “Missions,” “The Gospel.” This book is used by the ‘Open Brethren’ generally.
(2) ‘Hymns and Spiritual Songs compiled in Bristol’. London and Bristol. 1870. This collection is the work of Messrs. Muller and Craik, of Bristol, two of the leaders amongst the ‘Open Brethren’. It is the most catholic of all the books put forth by either section. It contains more than 600 hymns, which are arranged under the following heads :—”God,” “The Lord Jesus Christ,” “The Holy Spirit,” “The Christian Life,” “The Second Coming of Christ,” “Christian Ordinances,” “Special Occasions,” “Gospel.” Amongst the Brethren no new hymn-writers appear. Chapman, Deck, Denny, Kelly, and Tregelles are represented. This work is used chiefly in Bristol and its neighbourhood.
The hymn-books put forth by the ‘Plymouth Brethren’ up to the year of the rupture contain hymns for ” the Assembly of the Saints,” i.e. the Brethren themselves met in worship. But the books put forth since the rupture in 1848 contain also a selection, though a smaller one, for the “unconverted,” i.e. those who are not in full communion with themselves. In the books of the Exclusive Section these hymns are placed in an Appendix, as seen in ‘Hymns for the Little Flock’, 1881, whilst in those of the Open Section, where fuller arrangement is found, they are placed under the heading “Gospel,” with its subdivisions “Prayer for Blessing,” ” Testimony,” “Invitation,” as in the ‘Hymns and Spiritual Songs’ compiled in Bristol.
The principle on which this division is made will be seen from the following extracts from the Preface of the first of the Books just mentioned, which, as it is fairly applicable to all, we quote somewhat fully:
“Three things are needed for a hymn-book. A basis of truth and sound doctrine; something at least of the Spirit of Poetry, though not poetry itself, which is objectionable as merely the spirit and imagination of man; and thirdly, the most difficult to find at all, that experimental acquaintance with truth In the affections which enables a person to make his hymn (if led of God to compose one) the vehicle in sustained thought and language of practical grace and truth which sets the soul in communion with Christ and rises even to the Father, and yet this in such sort that it is not mere individual experience which for assembly worship is out of place…….”Many authors may be comforted by knowing their hymns were sometimes very nice, but not suited to an ‘Assembly of Saints ‘; several have gone into the ‘Appendix’, not necessarily as inferior but of a different character …. Many hymns have been corrected on the principles referred to.”
Few hymns placed in those sections of their books for general use are written by the Brethren themselves, whilst many by them are found amongst those for the use of “the Assembly of the Saints.” In this latter class hymns containing Confession of Sin and Prayer for Pardon are conspicuous by their absence. The doctrine such hymns teach is held to be unnecessary for the children of God, consequently they are deemed unsuitable for Assembly Worship. Hymns to be used at the Lord’s Supper, and at Holy Baptism are found in some numbers, as are also hymns concerning the coming of Christ to raise His saints, and the millennium. Hymns teaching the dreariness of this world and all belonging to it, the full assurance of faith, and the completeness of the Christian in Christ, are strongly represented. The efficacy alone of the Blood of Jesus for Salvation is the theme of many of their best hymns. [W. S.]”))
1 This world is a wilderness wide;
We have nothing to seek or to choose;
We’ve no thought in the waste to abide;
We’ve nought to regret nor to lose.
The Lord is Himself gone before,
He has marked out the path that we tread;
It’s as sure as the love we adore,
We have nothing to fear nor to dread.
There is but that one in the waste,
Which His footsteps have marked as His own;
And we follow in diligent haste
To the seats where He’s put on His crown.
For the path where our Saviour is gone
Has led up to His Father and God,
To the place where He’s now on the throne;
And His strength shall be ours on the road.
And with Him shall our rest be on high,
When in holiness bright we sit down,
In the joy of His love ever nigh,
In the peace that His presence shall crown.
‘Tis the treasure we’ve found in His love,
That has made us now pilgrims below,
And ’tis there, when we reach Him above,
As we’re known, all His fulness we’ll know.
And, Saviour, ’tis Thee from on high,
We await till the time Thou shalt come,
To take those Thou hast led by Thine eye
To Thyself in Thy heavenly home.
Till then ’tis the path Thou hast trod,
Our delight and our comfort shall be;
We’re content with Thy staff and Thy rod,
Till with Thee all Thy glory we see.
Hark! ten thousand voices crying
“Lamb of God” with one accord;
Thousand thousand saints replying,
Wake at once the echoing chord.
“Praise the Lamb”, the chorus waking,
All in heaven together throng;
Loud and far each tongue partaking
Rolls around the endless song.
Grateful incense this, ascending
Ever to the Father’s throne;
Every knee to Jesus bending,
All the mind in heaven is one.
All the Father’s counsels claiming
Equal honours to the Son;
All the Son’s effulgence beaming
Makes the Father’s glory known.
By the Spirit all-pervading,
Hosts unnumbered round the Lamb,
Crowned with light and joy unfading,
Hail Him as the great “I AM”.
Joyful now the new creation
Rests in undisturbed repose,
Blest in Jesus’ full salvation,
Sorrow now nor thraldom knows.
Hark! the heavenly notes resounding,
Higher swells the song of praise;
Through creation’s vault responding
Loud Amens which joy doth raise.
Father, Thy name our souls would bless,
As children taught by grace,
Lift up our hearts in righteousness
And joy before Thy face.
Sweet is the confidence Thou giv’st,
Though high above our praise;
Our hearts resort to where Thou liv’st
In heaven’s unclouded rays.
There in the purpose of Thy love
Our place is now prepared,
As sons with Him who is above,
Who all our sorrows shared.
Eternal ages shall declare
The riches of Thy grace,
To those who with Thy Son shall share
A son’s eternal place.
Absent as yet, we rest in hope,
Treading the desert path,
Waiting for Him who takes us up
Beyond the power of death.
We joy in Thee, Thy holy love
Our endless portion is,
Like Thine own Son, with Him above,
In brightest heavenly bliss.
O Holy Father, keep us here
In that blest name of love,
Walking before Thee without fear
Till all be joy above.
Oh bright and blessed scenes!
Where sin can never come,
Whose sight our longing spirit weans
From earth where yet we roam.
And can we call our home
Our Father’s house on high,
The rest of God our rest to come,
Our place of liberty?
Yes! in that light unstained,
Our stainless souls shall live,
Our heart’s deep longings more than gained,
When God His rest shall give.
His presence there, my soul
Its rest, its joy untold
Shall find, when endless ages roll,
And time shall ne’er grow old.
Our God the centre is,
His presence fills that land,
And countless myriads owned as His,
Round Him adoring stand.
Our God whom we have known,
Well known in Jesus’ love,
Rests in the blessing of His own,
Before Himself above.
Glory supreme is there,
Glory that shines through all,
More precious still that love to share
As those that love did call.
Like Jesus in that place
Of light and love supreme!
Once Man of Sorrows full of grace,
Heaven’s blest and endless theme!
Like Him! O grace supreme!
Like Him before Thy face,
Like Him to know that glory beam
Unhindered face to face!
Oh, love supreme and bright,
Good to the feeblest heart,
That gives us now, as heavenly light,
What soon shall be our part!
Rise, my soul, thy God directs thee;
Stranger hands no more impede;
Pass thou on, His hand protects thee,
Strength that has the captive freed.
Is the wilderness before thee,
Desert lands where drought abides?
Heavenly springs shall there restore thee,
Fresh from God’s exhaustless tides.
Light divine surrounds thy going,
God Himself shall mark thy way;
Secret blessings, richly flowing,
Lead to everlasting day.
God, thine everlasting portion,
Feeds thee with the mighty’s meat;
Price of Egypt’s hard extortion,
Egypt’s food no more to eat.
Art thou weaned from Egypt’s pleasures?
God in secret thee shall keep,
There unfold His hidden treasures,
There His love’s exhaustless deep.
In the desert God will teach thee
What the God that thou hast found,
Patient, gracious, powerful, holy;
All His grace shall there abound.
On to Canaan’s rest still wending,
E’en thy wants and woes shall bring
Suited grace from high descending,
Thou shalt taste of mercy’s spring.
Though thy way be long and dreary,
Eagle strength He’ll still renew:
Garments fresh and foot unweary
Tell how God hath brought thee through.
When to Canaan’s long-loved dwelling
Love divine thy foot shall bring,
There with shouts of triumph swelling,
Zion’s songs in rest to sing,
There no stranger-God shall meet thee,
Stranger thou in courts above.
He who to His rest shall greet thee,
Greets thee with a well-known love.
Father, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee;
The work that Thine own Son hath wrought,
Has brought us back in peace and free.
And now as sons before Thy face,
With joyful steps the path we tread,
Which leads us on to that blest place
Prepared for us by Christ our Head.
Thou gav’st us, in eternal love,
To Him to bring us home to Thee,
Suited to Thine own thought above,
As sons like Him, with Him to be
In Thine own house. There love divine
Fills the bright courts with cloudless joy;
But ’tis the love that made us Thine,
Fills all that house without alloy.
O boundless grace which fills with joy
Unmingled all that enter there!
God’s nature, love without alloy,
Our hearts are given e’en now to share.
God’s righteousness with glory bright,
Which with its radiance fills that sphere,
E’en Christ, of God the power and light,
Our title is that light to share.
O mind divine, so must it be
That glory all belongs to God:
O love divine, that did decree
We should be part, through Jesus’ blood.
O keep us, love divine near Thee,
That we our nothingness may know,
And ever to Thy glory be
Walking in faith while here below.
O Lord, Thy love’s unbounded,
So sweet, so full, so free;
My soul is all transported
Whene’er I think on Thee.
Yet, Lord, alas, what weakness
Within myself I find:
No infant’s changing pleasure
Is like my wandering mind.
And yet Thy love’s unchanging,
And doth recall my heart
To joy in all its brightness —
The peace its beams impart.
Yet sure, if in Thy presence
My soul still constant were,
Mine eye would, more familiar,
Its brighter glories bear.
And thus Thy deep perfections
Much better should I know,
And with adoring fervour
In this Thy nature grow.
Still sweet ’tis to discover,
If clouds have dimmed my sight,
When passed, eternal Lover,
Towards me, as e’er, Thou’rt bright.
O keep my soul, then, Jesus,
Abiding still with Thee;
And if I wander, teach me
Soon back to Thee to flee,
That all Thy gracious favour
May to my soul be known;
And, versed in this Thy goodness,
My hopes Thyself shalt crown.
Lord Jesus, precious Saviour,
Oh, when wilt Thou return?
Our hearts with woe familiar
To Thee our Master turn.
Our woe is Thine, Lord Jesus,
Our joy is in Thy love;
But woe and joy all lead us
To Thee in heaven above.
To Thee we look, Lord Jesus
To Thee whose love we know;
We wait the power that frees us
From bondage, sin, and woe.
We look for Thine appearing,
Thy presence here to bless;
We greet the day that’s nearing,
When all this woe shall cease.
But oh, for us, blest Saviour,
How brighter far the lot
To be with Thee for ever,
Where evil enters not! —
To see Thee who so loved us
Then face to face above,
Whose grace at first had moved us
To taste and know Thy love.
With Thee, O Lord, for ever
Our souls shall be content:
Nor act nor thought shall ever
Full joy with Thee prevent.
Oh, come then soon, Lord Jesus,
In patience still we wait
(Await the power that frees us)
Our longed-for heavenly seat.
Lord Jesus, homeless Stranger,
Thou dearest Friend to me,
An outcast in a manger,
That Thou might’st with us be;
We gaze upon Thy meekness,
The manger and the cross;
We cling to Thee in weakness
Through suffering, pain, and loss.
We see the Godhead-glory
Shine through that human veil;
And, willing, hear the story
Of love come here to heal.
But who Thy path of service,
Thy steps removed from ill,
Thy patient love to serve us,
With human tongue can tell?
‘Mid sin, and all corruption,
Where hatred did abound,
Thy path of true perfection
Shed light on all around.
O’er all, Thy perfect goodness
Rose blessedly divine;
Poor hearts oppressed with sadness
Found ever rest in Thine.