‘The Sands Of Time Are Sinking”

I grew up in a church that sang beautifully, and in a singing family as well.  Sitting next to my mother and hearing her sing alto is one of things I look forward to when I visit home.  It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I love to look through old hymnal for buried and forgotten treasures.  One song that I probably dismissed as too slow and boring in my youth has now become one of my absolute favorites.  In 1857 Anne Cousin wrote “The Sands Of Time Are Sinking”, and though our hymnals usually contain only four stanzas, there are actually nineteen.  The imagery and poetry are beautiful and true, all worth taking a moment to read below (though it would be a bit over the top to lead them all next Sunday!)

The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Oh! Well it is forever, Oh! well forevermore,
My nest hung in no forest of all this death doomed shore:
Yea, let the vain world vanish, as from the ship the strand,
While glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

There the Red Rose of Sharon unfolds its heartsome bloom
And fills the air of heaven with ravishing perfume:
Oh! To behold it blossom, while by its fragrance fanned
Where glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty, without a veil is seen:
It were a well spent journey, though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army, doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Oft in yon sea beat prison My Lord and I held tryst,
For Anwoth was not heaven, and preaching was not Christ:
And aye, my murkiest storm cloud was by a rainbow spanned,
Caught from the glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land.

But that He built a Heaven of His surpassing love,
A little new Jerusalem, like to the one above,
“Lord take me over the water” hath been my loud demand,
Take me to my love’s own country, unto Immanuel’s land.

But flowers need nights cool darkness, the moonlight and the dew;
So Christ, from one who loved it, His shining oft withdrew:
And then, for cause of absence my troubled soul I scanned
But glory shadeless shineth in Immanuel’s land.

The little birds of Anwoth, I used to count them blessed,
Now, beside happier altars I go to build my nest:
Over these there broods no silence, no graves around them stand,
For glory, deathless, dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Fair Anwoth by the Solway, to me thou still art dear,
Even from the verge of heaven, I drop for thee a tear.
Oh! If one soul from Anwoth meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens, In Immanuel’s land.

I’ve wrestled on towards Heaven, against storm and wind and tide,
Now, like a weary traveler that leaneth on his guide,
Amid the shades of evening, while sinks life’s lingering sand,
I hail the glory dawning from Immanuel’s land.

Deep waters crossed life’s pathway, the hedge of thorns was sharp;
Now, these lie all behind me Oh! for a well tuned harp!
Oh! To join hallelujah with yon triumphant band,
Who sing where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Soon shall the cup of glory wash down earth’s bitterest woes,
Soon shall the desert briar break into Eden’s rose;
The curse shall change to blessing the name on earth that’s banned
Be graven on the white stone in Immanuel’s land.

O I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved’s mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.”
I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand,
Not even where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

I shall sleep sound in Jesus, filled with His likeness rise,
To love and to adore Him, to see Him with these eyes:
’Tween me and resurrection but Paradise doth stand;
Then—then for glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land.

The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.

I have borne scorn and hatred, I have borne wrong and shame,
Earth’s proud ones have reproached me for Christ’s thrice blessed Name:
Where God His seal set fairest they’ve stamped the foulest brand,
But judgment shines like noonday in Immanuel’s land.

They’ve summoned me before them, but there I may not come,
My Lord says “Come up hither,” My Lord says “Welcome home!”
My King, at His white throne, my presence doth command
Where glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

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7 Responses to ‘The Sands Of Time Are Sinking”

  1. I think after about 7 verses people would start throwing their books at the leader if he kept going.

  2. James says:

    You mean like after the 8th verse of “Just As I Am” at Harding, or the 20th “There’s no god like Jehovah!” when ZoeGroup sings “Days Of Elijah”?

    Yep, there’s definitely a limit to how long a song can go, especially in congregational singing. It is a shame, though, that we often miss out on some eloquent and uplifting lyrics because of the habit of singing the same 1st, 2nd, & last stanza combos all the time.

  3. Jason Harris says:

    “Turn in your hymnals to song number ____. Please stand and sing all 19 stanzas.”

    That’s what you want to hear… 🙂

    Good poetry though. Thanks James.


  4. Tim says:

    Hey man, did you say you know of a church in Syracuse? If so, would you mind sharing some info.

    About the 19 verses… At the school where I learned Spanish, we’d have a devo each morning and we’d sing the same song over and over and over again. I think part of the reason was just to help us learn a song in a new language. But I loved the repetition. After a few times through, I felt like I was growing into the song. Weird, but fun.

  5. James says:

    “I felt like I was growing into the song.”

    That’s the way the singing of Taize type songs are, too. We sing a couple now and then in our worship in Troy. Just a couple of simple lines, sung several times, first getting louder, then softer. It’s more meaningful than I’d have first thought.

    Here’s an example (not us, obviously):
    [audio src="http://www.sacramentors.org/audio/bless.mp3" /]

  6. rcottrill says:

    I can identify. I too have attended churches over the years that love the old hymns. Some sing them rather listlessly (sadly), but others sing them enthusiastically, often in harmony. As one who has studied and written about hymns for 40 years, it encourages me to know there are churches, and families (like yours and mine), that love to sing our traditional hymns and gospel songs.

    You say a significant thing when you mention your attitude toward “The Sands of Time” probably changing over time. When our hymns are read and sung in our maturer years, they reveal a deeper meaning than we perhaps perceived before. That’s one reason it bothers me that some churches have totally capitulated to youth, and to contemporary music. We must not abandon the heritage we have in the hymns of the faith.

    If you enjoy reading about our hymns and their authors, I invite you to check out my daily blog on the subject, Wordwise Hymns. (Today, there’s an article explaining the origin of “The Sands of Time.)

  7. rodney says:

    dwight l moody’s favorite hymn, and yes, he delighted in having the congregation sing all 19 verses ….

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