Great God, what do I see and hear!

Full Text

1 Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear,
On clouds of glory seated!
The trumpet sounds; the graves restore
The dead which they contained before:
Prepare, my soul, to meet Him!

2 The dead in Christ shall first arise,
At the last trumpet's sounding,
Caught up to meet Him in the skies,
With joy their Lord surrounding:
No gloomy fears their souls dismay,
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet Him.

3 But sinners, fill'd with guilty fears,
Behold His wrath prevailing;
For they shall rise, and find their tears
And sighs are unavailing:
The day of grace is past and gone;
Trembling, they stand before the throne,
All unprepared to meet Him.

4 Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear,
On clouds of glory seated.
Low at His Cross I view the day
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
And thus prepare to meet Him.

Hymnal: according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, 1871

Author (v. 1): Anonymous

In some hymnals, the editors noted that a hymn's author is unknown to them, and so this artificial "person" entry is used to reflect that fact. Obviously, the hymns attributed to "Author Unknown" "Unknown" or "Anonymous" could have been written by many people over a span of many centuries. Go to person page >

Author (v. 2, 3, 4): William Bengo Collyer

William Bengo Collyer was born at Blackheath Hill, in 1782, and studied at Homerton College. Before completing his twentieth year he became pastor of a Congregational society at Peckham, continuing in that position through his life. He died in 1854. He received the degree of D.D. from the University of Edinburgh in 1808. For many years he was one of the most popular Dissenting ministers in London. He published many hymns and some works on theology. --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872.… Go to person page >

Alterer: Thomas Cotterill

Thomas Cotterill was born in 1779; studied at S. John's College, Cambridge, graduating M.A.; ordained in 1806, and enterred upon parochial work at Tutbury; afterwards removed to Lane End, where he remained for nine years among the Potteries; in 1817, became perpetual Curate of S. Paul's, Sheffield. He died in 1823. He was the author of several books; among them, "A Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use, adapted to the Services of the Church of England." In the preparation of this collection (the 8th ed., 1819), he had the assistance of Montgomery, who in this work did what he condemned in others, viz., altering and remodeling other authors' hymns. --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872.… Go to person page >

Text Information

Notes

Great God, what do I see and hear? [Advent.] It is sometimes stated that this hymn is based upon the Dies Irae. With that sequence, however, it has no connection except that the two hymns are on the same subject. The commonly accepted statement that the hymn is by Martin Luther is still more apocryphal. A rendering of the Dies Irae into German which appeared in 1565 (Wackernagel, iv, pp. 344-5) was revised by Bartholomäus Ringwaldt and published in his Handbüchlin, 1586, and this was translation by J. C. Jacobi, 1722. It is said that Ringwaldt's version was again translation by another hand, c. 1802; and finally adopted by Dr. Collyer in 1812. How far this is correct will be gathered from the following facts:—
1, The opening stanza of Ringwaldt's text, 1586, is:—

Est ist gewisslich an der Zeit
Dass Gottes Sohn wird kommen,
In seiner grossen Herrlichkeit,
Zu richten Bos und Frommen;
Da wird das Lachen werden theur
Wenn alles wird vergehn im Feur
Wie Petrus davon schreibet."

2. The translation by J. C. Jacobi, given in his Psalmodia Germanica, &c, 1722, p. 95, is:—

”Tis sure that awful Time will come,
When Christ the Lord of Glory
Shall from his Throne give Men their Doom
And change what's Transitory;
Who then will venture to retire,
When all's to be consum'd by Fire
As Peter has declared?"

3. The anonymous stanza published in Psalms & Hymns for Published and Private Devotion, Sheffield, 1802, is:—

”Great God! what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear
On clouds of glory seated!
The trumpet sounds! the graves restore
The dead which they contain'd before!
Prepare, my soul, to meet Him."

The only resemblance this stanza has to Jacobi's translation, or to the German from which he translated, is in the subject, and the metre common to them all. Strictly speaking, therefore, the history of "Great God, what do I see and hear!" begins with the anonymous stanza in the Sheffield Psalms & Hymns of 1802. This stanza was repeated in J. Kempthorne's Selected Portions of Psalms & Hymns, 1810; R. Aspland's Unitarian Selection of Psalms & Hymns, 1810, and others.
4. In 1812, Dr. Collyer gave this stanza in his Hymns partly Collected and partly Original, &c, No. 856, with the following additional stanzas:—

2. "The dead in Christ are first to rise,
And greet th' archangel's warning;
To meet the Saviour in the skies,
On this auspicious morning:
No gloomy fears their souls dismay,
His presence sheds eternal day,
On those prepar'd to meet Him.
3. "Far over space, to distant spheres,
The lightnings are prevailing;
Th' ungodly rise, and all their tears
And sighs are unavailing:
The day of grace is past and gone,
They shake before the Judgment throne,
All unprepar'd to meet Him.
4. "Stay, fancy, stay, and close thy wings,
Repress thy flight too daring;
One wondrous sight my comfort brings,
The Judge my nature wearing:
Beneath His cross I view the day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away
And thus prepare to meet Him!"

To the hymn as thus constituted, Dr. Collyer added the following note:—

"This hymn, which is adapted to Luther's celebrated tune, is universally ascribed to that great man. As I never saw more than this first verse, I was obliged to lengthen it for the completion of the subject, and am responsible for the verses which follow."

5. The next stage in the history of the hymn is supplied by T. Cotterill. In the 8th edition of his Selection, 1819, No. 199, the original stanza of 1802 was given unaltered; but in the 9th edition, 1820, No. 163, it was followed by the remaining stanzas being altered thus:—

2. “The dead in Christ shall first arise,
At the last trumpet's sounding,
Caught up to meet Him
, in the skies,
With joy their Lord surroundin:
No gloomy fears their souls dismay;
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet Him.
3. "But sinners, filled with guilty fears,
Behold His wrath
prevailing;
For they shall rise, and find their tears
And sighs are unavailing:
The day of grace is past and gone:
Trembling they stand before the throne,
All unprepared to meet Him.
4. Great God! what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear
On clouds of glory seated
:
Beneath His cross I view the day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
And thus prepare to meet Him."

6. From 1820 onwards the work of alteration has been carried on, Cotterill’s text being more strictly adhered to than any other. More than twenty versions are found in hymn-books in common use at the present time, the most important being Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1875, from Cotterill, through Murray's Hymnal, 1852; the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns, 1871, from Cotterill through Bickersteth's Christian Psalmody, 1833; the Hymnal Companion, 1876, also through Bickersteth, Turing's Collection, 1882, from Cotterill, with alterations by the editor; and the Hymnary,1872, from Cotterill, with emendations by the compilers. In the Hymnary it begins, "0 God, what do I see and hear! 9t and in T. Darling's Hymns, 1887, "Lord God, what do I see and hear." In the American Church Praise Book, 1882, stanzas i., ii. and iv. are from Hymns Ancient & Modern (see above), and stanza iii. is from Dr. Mills's translation of " Schon ist der Tag von Gott bestimmt.” With regard to all the versions of this hymn, careful collation shows that the Sheffield Psalms & Hymns of 1802, and Collyer, in 1812, supplied the materials; Cotterill in 1820 shaped the edifice, and individual editors have since added, in some cases adornments, and in others disfigurements, thereto. Some forms of the text have been rendered into several languages, including that in the Appendix to the S. P. C. K. Psalms & Hymns, 1863, into Latin by R. Bingham, in his Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871, as "Magne Deus, quae videndal."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

=========================

Great God, what do I see and hear? The texts of this hymn as set forth on p. 454 have been used by compilers of hymnals since 1892 almost without exception. In the 1904 ed. of Hymns Ancient & Modern, there is, however, a notable change in stanza i., line 2, where we read "The doom” instead of "The end of things created." Why this alteration has been made, with the divine declaration, "Behold, I make all things new," still standing in the Bible, is more than we can determine.

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)

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Hymns for Today's Church (2nd ed.) #189a
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The Cyber Hymnal #2047TextScoreAudio
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #321TextPage Scan
Welsh and English Hymns and Anthems #43
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