Hymn of the week: Come, let us anew

With the demise of Watchnight services in most of British Methodism this hymn and its associated ‘rollicking tune’ (Elizabeth Hart, All Loves excelling) DERBY (aka DERBE) is not as well known as it once was, when it was described having ‘a place in all Methodist hearts as the first hymn of the new year’ (John Telford, The Methodist Hymn Book Illustrated). However with New Year’s Day being a Sunday this year it may perhaps be more widely sung and is deservedly Hymn of the Week.

Originally published in a penny tract of seven hymns entitled Hymns for New Year’s Day, this hymn for the New Year was included in John Wesley’s 1780 Collection. It is based on Matthew 25:14-30 (The Parable of the Talents), Psalm 90:4-5 (verse 3) and 2 Timothy 4:7 (verse 5).

Companion to Hymns and Songs (1988) p.226 comments:

The greatest quality of this hymn…  is its remarkable use of poetic form and imagery to describe the shortness of life; few poets have conveyed the sense of the swiftness of time and the urgency of the second coming with the force that Charles Wesley shows here… In all the verses, but especially in the fourth, Charles Wesley uses the verse form with extraordinary skill to express the rapidity of movement, ending with the astonishing phrase ‘and eternity’s here’… In the imagination we are given to understand that the promised time has actually taken place: we are confronted with the unimaginable and inconceivable moment which will end all moments.

Telford relates a quaint story about the hymn:

John Fletcher once visited a girls’ school, and sat with them during the breakfast hour. At its close he invited them all to his vicarage at seven next morning. When they came he took his basin of bread and milk, asked his visitors to look at his watch and tell him how much time he took for breakfast. It was ‘just a minute and a half.’ Then, said Fletcher, ‘My dear girls, we have fifty-eight minutes of the hour left us; let us sing –

Our life is a dream;
Our time as a stream
Glides swiftly away,
And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.’

He spoke to them on the value of time, and the worth of the soul, and after praying with them, they returned to school deeply impressed by their unexpected lesson.

Fletcher evidently shared John Wesley’s belief in the importance of accounting for the use of every minute of the day; time is not to be wasted!

Come, let us anew
Our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.

His adorable will
Let us gladly fulfil,
And our talents improve,
By the patience of hope and the labour of love.

Our life is a dream,
Our time as a stream
Glides swiftly away,
And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.

The arrow is flown,
The moment is gone;
The millennial year
Rushes on to our view, and eternity’s here.

O that each in the day
Of his coming may say,
“I have fought my way through,
I have finished the work thou didst give me to do!”

O that each from his Lord
May receive the glad word,
“Well and faithfully done!
Enter into my joy, and sit down on my throne!”

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Happy New Year!

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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2 Responses to Hymn of the week: Come, let us anew

  1. W John Young says:

    Wonderful hymn. I sometimes mention the line ‘And never stand still till the Master appear’ to Methodists with workaholic tendencies.
    Bernard L Manning wrote, ‘familiarity has never made me proof against the sheer magic of the words:
    Our life is a dream,
    Our time as a stream
    Glides swiftly away,
    And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.

    The arrow is flown,
    The moment is gone;
    The millennial year
    Rushes on to our view, and eternity’s here.’
    (The Hymns of Wesley and Watts, p26)

    The sheer dynamism of the verses has also been held to be better than Watts’ more ponderous ‘Time like an ever rolling stream…’

  2. Holloway Rev says:

    I agree with you and Manning John – it is a great hymn to sing. We sang it on Sunday morning at Covenant Service and the congregation managed it pretty well.

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