AGAIN THE LORD OF LIGHT AND LIFE

Wayne S. Walker

“…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1.5)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which pictures Jesus as the light of God who, by His
resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week, brings life is
“Again the Lord of Light and Life.”  The text was written by Anna Letetia
Aiken Barbauld (1743-1825).  It first appeared in William Enfield’s
“Hymns for Public Worship,” published at Warrington, England, in 1772.
Originally in eleven stanzas, it was revised and reduced to four stanzas
by William Bangs Collyer, and this text was included in his “Hymns” of
1812.

     The tune (Arlington) usually used with this text was composed by
English musician Thomas Augustus Arne (1710-1778).  It was taken from the
minuet in the overture to his 1762 opera “Artaxerxes.”  The arrangement
as a hymn-tune was made by Ralph Harrison (1748-1810).  It was first
published in his “Sacred Harmony,” Vol. 1, in 1784.  In the historic
hymnbooks used among churches of Christ in the 20th century, this hymn,
so far as I know, first appeared in the 1925 edition of the 1921 “Great
Songs of the Church” No. 1 (#4) edited by Elmer L. Jorgenson.

     From there, it found its way into the 1937 “Great Songs of the
Church No. 2″ (#328) also edited by Jorgenson; the 1948 “Christian Hymns
No. 2″ (#167) and the 1966 “Christian Hymns No. 3” (#167) both edited by
Lloyd O. Sanderson; the 1963 “Christian Hymnal” (#23) edited by J. Nelson
Slater; and the 1963 “Abiding Hymns” (#6) edited by Robert C. Welch.  In
hymnbooks of current use among churches of Christ, it is found in the
1971 “Songs of the Church” (#20), the 1990 “Songs of the Church 21st
Century Ed.” (#55), and the 1994 “Songs of Faith and Praise” (#773), all
edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 “Church Gospel Songs and Hymns”
(#380) edited by V. E. Howard;  the 1986 “Great Songs Revised” (#28)
edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 “Praise for the Lord” (#13)
edited by John P. Wiegand.

     This same tune has been used with other hymns, including Joseph
Swain’s “How Sweet, How Heavenly Is the Sight” in the 1935 “Christian
Hymns” No. 1 (#141) also edited by Sanderson; most notably Isaac Watts’
“Am I a Soldier of the Cross” in “Christian Hymns No. 2” (#285),
“Christian Hymns No. 3” (#285), “Christian Hymnal” (#225), “Abiding
Hymns” (#16), the 1956 “Sacred Selections for the Church” (#224) edited
by Ellis J. Crum, “Church Gospel Songs and Hymns” (#12), “Great Songs
Revised” (#546), the 1987 “Hymns for Worship” (#275) edited by Dane K.
Shepard and R. J. Stevens, and “Praise for the Lord” (#134); and Isaac
Watts’ “This Is the Day the Lord Hath Made” in “Praise for the Lord”
(#695).

     This hymn is a particularly appropriate one to sing on the Lord’s
day.

I. Stanza 1 speaks of a day which is brought by the Lord of light and
life
“Again the Lord of light and life Awakes the kindling ray,
Unseals the eyelids of the morn, And pours increasing day.”
 A. Jesus Christ is the Lord of light and life because in Him is life
which brings light to men: Jn. 1.1-4
 B. This light unseals the eyelids of the morn; the morning, with its
rising sun, is an excellent time to think about the light and life of
Christ: Psa. 5.1-3
 C. It also pours increasing day; this is talking about a particular
24-hour day of the week, but that can easily be used to represent the
spiritual day that Christ brings to all who come to Him: 2 Pet. 1.19

II. Stanza 2 speaks of a day on which a special Sun arose
“O what a night was that which wrapt The heathen world in gloom!
O what a Sun which rose this day Triumphant from the tomb!”
 A. The concept of night is used throughout the Bible to refer to the
darkness of sin that envelops this world: Rom. 13.12-13
 B. But there was a day on which the Sun arose; the Messiah is spoken of
in prophecy as “the Sun of Righteousness”: Mal. 4.2
 C. And the day on which He rose triumphant from the tomb was the first
day of the week: Mk. 16.1-9

III. Stanza 3 speaks of a day on which worship is presented to God
“This day be grateful homage paid, And loud hosannas sung;
Let gladness dwell in every heart, And praise on every tongue.”
 A. “This day” therefore is the first day of the week, which in prophecy
is “the day that the Lord has made” when the stone which the builders had
rejected became the chief cornerstone: Psa. 118.22-24, Acts 4.10-11
 B. While the Bible never gives a specific reason, it is not out of the
realm of possibility that this fact is at least part of the reason why
God chose the first day of the week to be the day that Christians
assemble to break bread: Acts 20.7
 C. And while our worship is not necessarily limited to this day, when we
do come together on the Lord’s day we can offer unto Him the sacrifice of
praise which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name: Heb.
10.25, 13.15

IV. Stanza 4 speaks of a day which is welcomed by untold numbers of
people
“Ten thousand different lips shall join To hail this welcome morn,
Which scatters blessings on its wings To nations yet unborn.”
 A. It was the first day of the week on which the Lord brought forth
physical light to the world: Gen. 1.5
 B. In like manner, it was also the first day of the week on which the
Lord brought His Son, the spiritual light of the world, out of the grave:
Lk. 24.1-8
 C. Thus, we hail the first day of the week, which “scatters blessings on
its wings” to those who assemble upon it, as the Lord’s day: Rev. 1.10

CONCL.:  In years gone by, it was common to have many hymns available
that could specifically be used to open a worship service on the first
day of the week.  However, for whatever reason, many of those have
unfortunately fallen out of regular usage.  Yet, it is good for us to
stop and think and sing about what the first day of the week means to us
as we remember “Again the Lord of Light and Life.”

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