Friday, October 16, 2020

Since all the downward tracts of time

The football world is in turmoil about an ill-advised statement by former coach and analyst Tony Dungy. Dungy was making a point about the football future of the Dallas Cowboys, rather than extolling the virtues of their quarterback’s injury. The comment was not intentionally malicious, but the blowback has been swift and harsh.

While others are focusing on that, I turn to the idiom itself. The idiom apparently originated in a hymn by James Hervey. Written earlier, it was first published in 1746, in Reflections on a Flower-Garden, In a Letter to a Lady. The poem is set amidst the prose asserting, “that God is unerringly wise” and “does not overlook thee.” Hervey advocated accepting whatever God choses to bestow – allowing that things which do not appear to be blessings may well be “blessings in disguise.” The hymn usually appears in the form below, though often beginning, “Since all the varying scenes of time.”

1. Since all the downward tracts of time
God’s watchful eye surveys,
O! who so wise to choose our lot
Or to appoint our ways?

2. Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies;
E’en crosses from His sovereign hand
Are blessings in disguise.

3. Why should we doubt a Father’s love,
So constant and so kind?
To His unerring, gracious will
Be every wish resigned.

James Hervey (1714–1758) was an Anglican clergyman and writer. Influenced by John Wesley and the Methodists, he ultimately became a thorough-going Calvinist and remained in the Anglican communion. Next is how the poem appears in “Reflections on a Flower-Garden.”

Since all the downward Tracts of Time
God’s watchful Eye surveys
O! who so wise to chuse our Lot,
And regulate our Ways?

Since none can doubt his equal Love,
Unmeasurably kind;
To his unerring, gracious Will,
Be ev’ry Wish resign’d.

Good when He gives, supremely Good;
Nor less, when He denies;
E’en Crosses from his sov’reign Hand
Are Blessings in Disguise.

Current chatter aside, there truly are many Blessings in Disquise.

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