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Great But Unsung Hymn Stanzas, Incarnational Edition

Few readers here will be surprised to learn that most, if not all, hymnals, due to space constraints, omit a stanza or two from at least a few of the hymns found within their pages. The inevitable and, often, unfortunate consequence of this practice is that some great stanzas of devotional poetry are effectively lost to various congregations (and perhaps whole denominations) for decades or more.

Once, at my personal blog, I started a short-lived series highlighting these largely unknown gems. Count it among many noble projects I have left in various stages of incompletion.

This past Sunday evening, however, I was moved to revive that effort for at least one more installment. As part of our Christmas cantata, our music director had selected Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” for congregational singing. Rather than sing only the three stanzas that appear in our hymnal, however, he printed for us the words to two other stanzas, one of which is simply masterful.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

So much theology is brought to bear in the composition of these eight short lines! From the inescapable infection of the sin nature to the hope of ultimate sanctification, Wesley’s language (consider the ingenious use, given the context, of “efface”) illuminates this most gracious aim of the incarnation and inspires us to sing “Glory to the newborn King!” with deepest affection.


About David Oestreich

David Oestreich lives in northwest Ohio with his wife and three children. He is a maker of poems, photographs, fishing flies, and Saturday afternoon semi-haute cuisine. His poetry has appeared in various venues, both print and online.

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