Saturday, July 1, 2017

Now the Day Is Over -- Sabine Baring-Gould

He was a 31-year old Anglican minister, with a home-church crowd that must have included some children. Sabine Baring-Gould had been a minister for perhaps a year, and had a small gathering that apparently met late enough in the day to see dusk. So he crafted a poem to remind this group that “Now the Day Is Over”, as they concluded their time together with a song and a scripture reading. He was fond of the kids in this group, and he did what many of the adults wanted for their children – to reassure and remind them that God is the creator and protector. ‘Rest easy’, he said musically.

Sabine Baring-Gould was an Englishman who entered the ministry at age 30, so “Now the Day Is Over”  may have been one of his first written hymns that he composed and which first appeared in print in 1865. With a small but soon overflowing group that met at his tiny apartment soon after his graduation from Cambridge, Baring-Gould was apparently quite attached to them, particularly the children. His eight-verse song-poem indicates his feelings were not a passing emotion, but something he wanted to preserve with meaningful words. It’s said that he based the song’s words on Proverbs 3:24, and being a minister, perhaps this was the text of a talk that he’d delivered that same evening. Like all people who long for rest, how does one achieve that? Sabine’s role as a minister would have placed him in a position to hear the stresses of others, and to offer words of advice. Sabine would likely have used a King James version to read When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Sweet sleep, ushered in with a lullaby -- that’s what Sabine’s church kids would experience with his help, he hoped. Did some of them in fact drift off while still at his apartment? A peaceful scene that must have been, and little wonder that this little group grew to fill his abode, for who couldn’t be soothed and attracted to that atmosphere? That’s what family is, a group where children are coaxed to slumber, and anxious parents’ spirits are eased. One can imagine this somnolent musical effort was repeated by the same parents in their own homes later that same evening, and many more evenings thereafter.

Baring-Gould’s reputation evidently grew over the succeeding years, as he was multitalented with many accomplishments to his credit. His published books on a wide variety of subjects reportedly outnumbered those of any other author in the British Museum Library at one point in his life. Besides these, Sabine was a gifted archaeologist, artist, architect, and teacher. In short, name a subject, and he could likely speak with some measure of competence about that. Yet, perhaps it was his ability to persuade children to sleep as a 31-year old that meant most to the folks who knew him. “Suffer the little children …” someone once said (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). This someone was a pretty appealing guy too.           

See more information on the song story in these sources: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006; Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1990; 101 Hymn Stories, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982; and Then Sings My Soul – 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.

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