Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Baptist’s cry

“On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry” is a 6-stanza Long Meter hymn by Charles Coffin. Coffin was born in 1676 at Buzaney, Ardennes, in eastern France. In 1718, he became rector of the University of Paris, which position he held until his death in 1749. He published a collection of Latin hymns in 1727, most of which appeared in the Paris Breviary in 1736. Several of them have been translated into English, including this one below.

John Chandler (1806-1876) translated this hymn into English. It appears in The Hymns of the Primitive Church: now first Collected, Translated and Arranged (by John Chandler, London: John W. Parker, 1837, p. 40). It was labeled to be sung at Matins in Advent season. The note – (Jordanis oras prævia. No. 37) – refers to the beginning text in Latin (and then possibly the page number). Iordanis oras prævia, Vox ecce Baptistæ quatit: Præconis ad grandes sonos, Ignavus abscedat sopor. The hymn is often paired with Winchester New, arranged by Havergal and Monk.
1. On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh.
Come then and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings!
2. E’en now the air, the sea, the land
Feel that their Maker is at hand;
The very elements rejoice
And welcome him with cheerful voice.
3. Then cleansed be every Christian breast:
And furnished for so great a Guest,
Yea! let us each our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.
4. For thou art our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward.
Without thy grace our souls must fade
And wither like a flower decayed.
5. Stretch forth thine hand, to heal our sore,
And make us rise, to fall no more.
Once more upon thy people shine,
And fill the world with love divine.
6. To him, who left the throne of heaven,
To save mankind, all praise be given:
Like praise be to the Father done,
And Holy Spirit, Three-in-One.
Texts in modern hymnals usually have several variations from the version above, as it appears in The Hymns of the Primitive Church. Though used at Advent (which seems to focus primarily on the birth of Jesus) by many, the ministry of John the Baptist actually announced his coming as into public ministry as Messiah. He did not announce the birth of Jesus.

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