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.