479

Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Like so many of Wesley's texts, "Lo! He Comes" abounds with biblical imagery. Stanzas 1, 2, and 4 are based on the rich language of John's apocalyptic visions record­ed in Revelation 1:7 and 5:11-13. The third stanza reminds us that Christ's wounds and atoning death should lead us to greater faith and ultimately to our worship of Christ in glory (as Christ himself reminded the doubting Thomas). Stanza 4 is a majestic doxology to Christ, our Savior and Lord.
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Belgic Confession, Article 37, perhaps more than any, spells out what believers anticipate and how this fills us with hope and comfort:
 
“All human creatures will appear in person before the great judge…summoned there ‘with the archangel’s call and the sound of God’s trumpet’.”
 
“And as for those who are still alive, they will not die like the others but will be changed ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ from perishable to imperishable.”
 
“Therefore, with good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible and dreadful to wicked and evil people. But it is very pleasant and a great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption will then be accomplished...”
 
“The faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor. And as a gracious reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine.”
 
“So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
479

Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending

Blessing/Benediction

Optional readings (Rev. 1:4b-8)
Grace and peace to you
from him who is, and who was,
and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits before his throne,
and from Jesus Christ,
who is the faithful witness,
the firstborn from the dead,
and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us
and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests
to serve his God and Father—
to him be glory and power for ever and ever!
Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth
“will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,”
says the Lord God,
“who is, and who was,
and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Amen and Amen!
479

Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending

Tune Information

Name
HELMSLEY
Key
G Major or modal
Meter
8.7.8.7.4.4.4.7

Recordings

479

Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending

Hymn Story/Background

In 1750 John Cennick, a friend of John and Charles Wesley wrote an Advent hymn that began, "Lo! he cometh, countless trumpets blow before his bloody sign!" Cennick's hymn was published in his Collection (1752). Charles Wesley completely rewrote the text and published his version in Hymns of Intercession for all Mankind (1758) with the title "Thy Kingdom Come" (changed to "The Second Advent" in other editions).
 
Like so many of Wesley's texts, "Lo! He Comes" abounds with biblical imagery. Stanzas 1, 2, and 4 are based on the rich language of John's apocalyptic visions record­ed in Revelation 1:7 and 5:11-13. The third stanza reminds us that Christ's wounds and atoning death should lead us to greater faith and ultimately to our worship of Christ in glory (as Christ himself reminded the doubting Thomas). Stanza 4 is a majestic doxology to Christ, our Savior and Lord.
 
This hymn resulted when Charles Wesley totally rewrote the text of an Advent hymn by his friend John Cennick. The melismas (i.e., several musical notes per syllable of text) of this setting given here were a common feature of hymn tunes in the Wesley songbooks, but HELMSLEY is one of the few that survives in more recent hymnals, as syllabic settings (one note per syllable) appear to be normative for congregational singing.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Several members of the Wesley family are significant figures in the history of English hymnody, and none more so than Charles Wesley (b. Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, 1707; d. Marylebone, London, England, 1788). Charles was the eighteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, who educated him when he was young. After attending Westminster School, he studied at Christ Church College, Oxford. It was there that he and George Whitefield formed the Oxford "Holy Club," which Wesley's brother John soon joined. Their purpose was to study the Bible in a disciplined manner, to improve Christian worship and the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and to help the needy. Because of their methods for observing the Christian life, they earned the name “Methodists.”
 
Charles Wesley was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1735 but found spiritual conditions in the church deplorable. Charles and John served briefly as missionaries to the British colony in Georgia. Enroute they came upon a group of Moravian missionaries, whose spirituality impressed the Wesleys. They returned to England, and, strongly influenced by the ministry of the Moravians, both Charles and John had conversion experiences in 1738. The brothers began preaching at revival meetings, often outdoors. These meetings were pivotal in the mid-eighteenth-century "Great Awakening" in England.
 
Though neither Charles nor John Wesley ever left the Church of England them­selves, they are the founders of Methodism. Charles wrote some sixty-five hundred hymns, which were published in sixty-four volumes during his lifetime; these include Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1741), Hymns on the Lord's Supper ( 1 745), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1753), and Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780). Charles's hymns are famous for their frequent quotations and allusions from the Bible, for their creedal orthodoxy and their subjective expression of Christian living, and for their use of some forty-five different meters, which inspired new hymn tunes in England. Numerous hymn texts by Wesley are standard entries in most modern hymnals; fourteen are included in the Psalter Hymnal, 1987.
 
Charles's elder brother John also studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1728. A tutor at Lincoln College in Oxford from 1729 to 1735, Wesley became the leader of the Oxford "Holy Club" mentioned above. After his contact with the Moravian missionaries, Wesley began translating Moravian hymns from German and published his first hymnal, Collection of Psalms and Hymns, in Charleston, South Carolina (1737); this hymnal was the first English hymnal ever published for use in worship. Upon his return to England in 1738 Wesley "felt his heart strangely warmed" at a meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, when Peter Bohler, a Moravian, read from Martin Luther's preface to his commentary on the epistle to the Romans. It was at that meeting that John received the assurance that Christ had truly taken away his sins. That conversion experience (followed a few days later by a similar experience by his brother Charles) led to his becoming the great itinerant evangelist and administrator of the Methodist "societies," which would eventually become the Methodist Church. An Anglican all his life, John Wesley wished to reform the Church of England and regretted the need to found a new denomina­tion. Most of the hymnals he prepared with his brother Charles were intended for Christians in all denominations; their Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780) is one of the few specifically so designated. John was not only a great preacher and organizer, he was also a prolific author, editor, and translator. He translat­ed many classic texts, wrote grammars and dictionaries, and edited the works of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. In hymnody he is best known for his translation of selec­tions from the German hymnals of Johann Cruger ('Jesus, thy boundless love to me"), Freylinghausen, and von Zinzendorf ('Jesus, thy blood and righteousness"), and for his famous "Directions for Singing," which are still printed in Methodist hymnals. Most significant, however, is his well-known strong hand in editing and often strengthening his brother Charles's hymn texts before they copublished them in their numerous hymnals.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Augustine Arne (b. 1710; d. 1778) was the leading British theatre composer of the 18th century. Educated at Eton, he fell in love with music to the extent that he smuggled a spinet (type of harpsichord) into his room and secretly practiced at night. He also snuck into the opera where he became aquainted with Michael Festing, who took a liking to the boy. Festing taught Arne how to play violin, and convinced Arne’s father to allow the boy to leave law and pursue a career in music. Between 1733 and 1776, Arne wrote music for over 90 plays. Because Arne was a baptized Catholic, he never composed for the Church of England, unlike many leading composers at the time. 
— Laura de Jong

Orphaned at the age of four, Thomas Olivers (b. 1725; d. 1799) was negligently cared for by various relatives and received very little formal education. He worked as a cobbler but lived such a scandalous life that he was forced to leave his hometown. However, his life changed drastically after he was converted by a George Whitefield sermon on the text "Is not this a branch plucked out of the fire?" (Zecheriah 3:2). At first a follower of Whitefield, Olivers joined John and Charles Wesley 1753. He served as an itinerant Methodist preacher, traveling one hundred thousand miles on horseback through much of England, Scotland, and Ireland until 1777. He became editor of the Arminian Magazine in 1775, but John Wesley dismissed him in 1789 because of flagrant printing errors and the insertion of articles that Wesley did not approve. Olivers wrote only a few hymns, of which "The God of Abraham Praise" is most well-known.
— Bert Polman
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