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The Pilgrim Path (12-3-2020)

The Pilgrim Path---Luke 2: 8

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.


We do not consider the singing of hymns a big deal. We often forget that for a long time, Protestant Churches only sang the Psalms from a metrical psalter (there are some churches in the Reformed tradition that still “only” sing the Psalms in worship). The Sternhold-Hopkins Psalter was one of the standards in worship (published in 1562). Two Irishmen worked on a new version: Nahum Tate (1652—1715) and Nicholas Brady (1659—1726). Guess what? Their version met with resistance. Ken Osbeck relates this incident from his, 101 HYMN Stories, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, p.101:

“Tate himself relates that when he was present at family prayers at the home of a friend, one of the maids explained her refusal to sing by saying, ‘If you must know the plain truth, Sir, as long as you sung Jesus Christ’s Psalms, I sung along with ye; but now that you sing Psalms of your own invention, ye may sing by yourselves.’”

Well---Tate and Brady’s work was true to the Hebrew text---but it was new. And people tend “not” to like what they are unfamiliar with. Interestingly---a supplemental addition of their Psalter would include sixteen hymns! The only hymn that Nahum Tate produced---that we really sing with any regularity---is this Christmas piece:

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,

All seated on the ground, the angel of the LORD came down,

And glory shone around, and glory shone around.

“Fear not,” said he---for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind

“Glad tidings of great joy I bring”

“To you and all mankind, to you and all mankind.”

“To you, in David’s town this day is born of David’s line,”

“The Savior, who is Christ the LORD,”

“And this shall be the sign, and this shall be the sign.”

“The heavenly babe you there shall find to human view displayed,”

“All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,”

“And in a manger laid, and in a manger laid.”

Thus, spake the seraph, and forthwith,

Appeared a shining throng, of angels praising God who thus,

Addressed their joyful song, addressed their joyful song:

“All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace;

“Good will henceforth , from heaven to men,

“Begin and never cease, begin and never cease!”

Nahum Tate, 1700

This poet, writer, sometime minister---Nahum Tate was honored as Britain’s Poet Laureate in 1692. He wrote for the stage and is remembered for several adaptations of Shakespeare, the most well-known being his King Lear (1687). It is sad to report that Tate died poverty stricken in a debtor’s refuge in Southwark, London (1715). He had served a brief ministerial charge at Sudbury (Church of England) for almost four years. As you cover his biographical sketches, you are made aware that his, “intemperate lifestyle,” got the best of him. He made some poor decisions (what one of Us does not?). He wrote about the shepherds, “keeping watch,” by night. I have a strong suspicion---he came to understand that the LORD Jesus Christ was keeping watch over him. He had been raised in a clergyman’s home---I really doubt he ever felt he got too far from the Loving Eyes of Jesus---even in his lowest moments. He could always relish the fact---the blood of Jesus, God’s Son---cleanses Us from All sin…

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD.” Romans 8: 37—39

From Sinclair Ferguson: “…his love is the foundation not only for faith but also for hope. And that hope lasts; it will never fail. It is a hope that we can hold on to even when we are suffering, even when life seems to be unraveling at the seams, even when our worst nightmares are coming true. We can still have hope, because God kept his biggest promise, his oldest and costliest promise, when Love Came Down at Christmas.”

PRAYER from Ambrose of Milan (337—397)

Merciful LORD,

The comforter and teacher of your faithful people,

Increase in your church the desires which you have given,

And confirm the hearts of those who hope in You by enabling them to understand

The depth of your Promises,

That all your adopted children may even now behold,

With the eyes of faith,

And patiently wait for,

The light which as yet You do not openly manifest,

Through Jesus Christ our LORD, Amen.

Grace and Peace in Jesus, the Only Redeemer of broken and wretched souls, Pastor Jason