Sunday, January 27, 2008

"How Shall I Sing That Majesty"

A great hymn one that's sung infrequetly alas. Words by John Mason.
Born: Cir­ca 1645, Ir­ches­ter, North­amp­ton­shire, Eng­land (bap­tized March 1646).
Died: 1694, Wa­ter Strat­ford, Buck­ing­ham­shire, Eng­land (buried May 22).

Mason was the son of a dis­sent­ing min­is­ter, and grand­fa­ther of John Ma­son, au­thor of A Trea­tise on Self-Know­ledge. He was ed­u­cat­ed at Strix­ton School, Nort­hants, Eng­land, and Clare Coll­ege, Cam­bridge. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing his mas­ter’s de­gree, he be­came Cu­rate of Is­ham, and in 1688, Vi­car of Stan­ton­bu­ry, Buckinghamshire. A lit­tle more than five years lat­er he be­came Rec­tor of Wa­ter Strat­ford. Here he com­posed the vol­ume con­tain­ing The Songs of Praise, his par­a­phrase of The Song of Sol­o­mon, and the Po­em on Dives and Laz­a­rus, with which Shep­herd’s Pen­i­ten­tial Cries was lat­er bound up. This vol­ume passed through 20 edi­tions; be­sides the Songs of Praise, it con­tains six Pen­i­ten­tial Cries by Ma­son. Ma­son’s hymns were prob­ab­ly used in pub­lic wor­ship, and, if so, they are among the ear­li­est hymns so used in the Church of Eng­land.

About a month be­fore his death, Ma­son had a vi­sion of Je­sus wear­ing a glor­i­ous crown, and with a look of un­ut­ter­a­ble ma­jes­ty on His face. Of this vi­sion he spoke, and preached a ser­mon called The Mid­night Cry, in which he pro­claimed the near­ness of Christ’s re­turn. A re­port spread that this would take place at Wa­ter Strat­ford it­self, and crowds ga­thered there from the sur­round­ing vil­lages. Fur­ni­ture and pro­vi­sions were brought in, and eve­ry cor­ner of the house and vil­lage oc­cu­pied. The ex­cite­ment had scarce­ly died down when Mason passed away, still tes­ti­fy­ing that he had seen the Lord, and that it was time for the na­tion to trem­ble, and for Christ­ians to trim their lamps. His last words were, “I am full of lov­ing kind­ness of the Lord.”

How shall I sing that Majesty
Which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie;
Sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.
Thousands of thousands stand around
Thy throne, O God most high;
Ten thousand times ten thousand sound
Thy praise; but who am I?

Thy brightness unto them appears,
Whilst I Thy footsteps trace;
A sound of God comes to my ears,
But they behold Thy face.
They sing because Thou art their Sun;
Lord, send a beam on me;
For where heaven is but once begun
There alleluias be.

Enlighten with faith’s light my heart,
Inflame it with love’s fire;
Then shall I sing and bear a part
With that celestial choir.
I shall, I fear, be dark and cold,
With all my fire and light;
Yet when Thou dost accept their gold,
Lord, treasure up my mite.

How great a being, Lord, is Thine,
Which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line
To sound so vast a deep.
Thou art a sea without a shore,
A sun without a sphere;
Thy time is now and evermore,
Thy place is everywhere.

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