“AT EVEN, WHEN THE SUN WAS SET”

Wayne S. Walker

“When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with
various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one
of them and healed them” (Lk. 4.40).

     INTRO.:  An evening song which draws its thoughts from this incident
in the life of Jesus is “At Even, When the Sun Was Set.”  Originally in
eight stanzas, the text was written by Henry Twells (1823-1900).  An
Anglican minister who lived at Hammersmith, England, where he was
headmaster of Godolphin School, he provided these words for the appendix
of the 1868 edition of “Hymns Ancient and Modern” at the request of the
editor Henry Baker.  The original first line, “At even, e’er the sun was
set,” was altered to its present form in 1882 for the “Church of England
Hymn Book” by the editor Godfrey Thring (1823-1903).

     The tune which is usually associated with it, called “Eden,” was
composed by Timothy B. Mason (1801-1861).  It was first published in
1836.  Timothy Mason was a brother of the well-known American hymntune
composer, Lowell Mason (1792-1872). Among songbooks published by members
of the church of Christ, this hymn is found in the 1922 appendix of the
1921 “Great Songs of the Church” No. 2 (#404) and the 1937 “Great Songs
of the Church No. 2″ (#343) both edited by E. L. Jorgenson.  It is used
in the 1963 “Christian Hymnal” (#31) edited by J. Nelson Slater, with a
tune (Eucharest) by Isaac Baker Woodbury; and in the 1986 “Great Songs
Revised” (#36) edited by Forrest M. McCann, with a tune (Abends) by
Herbert S. Oakley.  Then in the 1992 “Praise for the Lord” (#56) edited
by John P. Wiegand, the Mason tune is returned.

     The hymn reminds us of the blessings that we can seek from Christ
each evening.

I. Stanza 1 goes back to the scene where Christ healed people in the
evening
“At even, when the sun was set, The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;
O in what divers pains they met!  O with what joy they went away!”
 A. Even after what was probably a busy day, Jesus was willing to use His
evening hours to help people: Matt. 8.16-17
 B. Those who came had divers pains–they are described as being sick and
demon possessed: Mk. 1.32-34
 C. Yet, with what joy they must have gone away, even as others whom
Jesus healed–cf.  Lk. 5.17-26

II. Stanza 2 makes application of this incident to us today
“Once more ’tis eventide, and we, Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if Thy form we cannot see, We know and feel that Thou art here.”
 A. Because the stanza begins, “Once more ’tis eventide,” this song would
not be an appropriate one for morning worship, but was obviously intended
for an evening service.  And today, like those of the text, when we meet
together for an evening service, we often come with various ills, both
physical and spiritual: Jas. 5.13-16
 B. They came into the literal, personal presence of Jesus on earth,
whereas we cannot see His physical form as they did: Jn. 20.29, 1 Pet.
1.7-8
 C. Yet, because of His promises, we can still know and feel that He is
among us: Matt. 18.20, 28.20

III. Stanza 3 is a prayer that Christ will bless us as we come to Him
“O Savior Christ, our woes dispel; For some are sick and some are sad,
And some have never loved Thee well, And some have lost the love they
had.”
 A. Jesus Christ is able to dispel all our woes, for He is the Sun of
Righteousness who has arisen with healing in His wings: Mal. 4.2
 B. Some of our woes pertain to the physical things of this life which
sometimes make us sick and sad; and while Jesus has never promised to
remove all of these things from us, He does promise to give us grace to
help us bear our infirmities: 2 Cor. 12.7-10, Heb. 4.15-16
 C. And some of these woes are such that they often cause people not to
love the Lord or to lose the love that they had, and Jesus also wants to
help restore these to a right relationship with Him: Gal. 6.1, Jas.
5.19-20

IV. Stanza 4 is a confession of weakness and sin in our lives
“And none, O Lord, have perfect rest, For none are wholly free from sin;
And they who fain would serve Thee best Are conscious most of wrong
within.”
 A. This is actually stanza 6 of the original poem, stanzas 4-5 usually
being omitted.  In this life no one has perfect rest, since God’s final
rest will not be experienced until after this life is over: Heb. 4.8-9,
Rev. 14.13
 B. The reason why this is so is that in this life none are wholly free
from sin.  The fact is that all have sinned: Rom. 3.23
 C. While Christians do not continue to live in sin, even those who seek
to serve the Lord as faithfully as they can are conscious of the fact
that they still have to struggle with the problem if sin in their lives:
1 Jn. 1.7-9

V. Stanza 5 explains the basis upon which we can still have hope in spite
of our sin
“O Savior Christ, Thou too art man; Thou hast been troubled, tempted,
tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan The very wounds that shame would
hide.”
 A. Jesus Christ, the Word who was God, became flesh, a man: Jn. 1.1, 14
 B. As a man, He was troubled, tempted, and tried: Heb. 2.17-18
 C. Therefore, by His own experience, He fully understands the problems
that we face in life, so that we can cast all our cares on Him: 1 Pet.
5.7

VI. Stanza 6 says that therefore we can still look to Him for help
“Thy touch has still its ancient power; No word from Thee can fruitless
fall:
Hear, in this solemn evening hour, And in Thy mercy heal us all.”
 A. Although Jesus does not literally touch us as He did those who came
to Him during His earthly life, the same power that enabled Him to heal
physical illnesses then is still available to us in the gospel: Rom. 1.16
 B. Thus, through His revealed word, which cannot fruitless fall, He
provides for all our spiritual needs: 2 Tim. 3.16-17
 C. And by it, we can look to Him for the mercy that we need to heal us
of all that would keep us from a right relationship with God: Eph. 2.5-9,
Tit. 3.5

CONCL.:  The two stanzas which are universally omitted, numbers 4 and 5
in the original poem, are here given for your consideration.
“And some are pressed with worldly care, And some are tried with sinful
doubt;
And some such grievous passions tear, That only Thou canst cast them
out.”
“And some have found the world is vain, Yet from the world they break not
free;
And some have friends who give them pain, Yet have not sought a Friend in
Thee.”
     As I have said before, many of these older hymns are no longer as
familiar, having been replaced first with gospel songs and now with the
“praise choruses” that seem to be so popular.  As a result, the language
with which we express the thoughts of our hearts to God in song is
becoming increasingly impoverished.  However, hymns such as this can
still be very useful to remind us that we should continue to seek the
Lord “At Even, When the Sun Was Set.”

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