Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun — Arminian?

21 April 2010 by Wes Bredenhof

I’m preparing to preach on Daniel 2 this coming Sunday.  As I was working on the text, it occurred to me that a suitable hymn would be “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun.”  This hymn has been included in our red Augment for testing in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Though musical beauty is admittedly a rather subjective thing, I love this hymn – it has beautiful, Christ-exalting words and a lively melody.

However, when I turned to the report to our upcoming synod, I found that this one didn’t make the cut.  How did I miss that?  There was an Augment Ad Hoc Committee that gave a sober second look to all the proposed hymns.  This Committee especially seems to have got hung up on the line, “the prisoners leap to loose their chains.”  The Committee commented, “Prisoners themselves cannot leap to loose their chains.  Our salvation is based in Christ and in him alone.  At best, this phrase is unclear.  Many could easily understand it in an Arminian way.”  The Standing Committee for the Book of Praise apparently agreed with the Ad Hoc Committee’s fears and axed it.  That’s regrettable.

It is peculiar that the version in our Augment isn’t the version you find in the Blue Psalter Hymnal or the Trinity Hymnal.  If someone had taken a moment to look they would have found that the troublesome line is rendered in accordance with its intention:  “the pris’ner leaps to lose his chains.”  “Loose” was used by Isaac Watts (the original author) in the same way as “lose” in our contemporary English.  The chains are broken by Christ and so the prisoners may leap free from them.  Because of Christ’s work they have lost their chains and may leap.  There is nothing discernibly Arminian about this, especially when we keep in mind the biblical references to those enchained being freed (i.e. the Gerasene demoniac, the apostles in Acts, etc.).  Is somebody actually going to think that the hymn is telling us that prisoners free themselves?

Well, I’m glad they spared “Christ Shall Have Dominion.”  I guess we’ll sing that instead.

7 responses to “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun — Arminian?”

  1. CalvinV says:

    I too found it regrettable that that song was axed. It was my favourite one of the whole augment. But the rationale seemed solid until now. Do you think this hymn can be reconsidered or has the opportunity passed?

  2. Tom Skerritt says:

    Did “Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands” make it?

    • The Ad Hoc committee recommended axing it, but the Standing Committee disagreed. The Ad Hoc committee thought that it was too “Lutheran.” But the Standing Committee said that “it should not be read through the lens of Lutheran theology.”

  3. Vaughn Hathaway says:

    Contemporaries of Watts did not accuse him of being Arminian although there may have been some who thought he might have Amyrauldian tendencies. The greatest criticisms of Watts among his contemporaries were that his method of paraphrasing the Psalms lent itself to Modalism.

  4. Susan says:

    I’m pretty sure this one is in the public domain. Why couldn’t they just change ‘loose’ to ‘lose’, if that was the only sticking point? And mark it with the proper revision note in the completed text. In fact, on this website, it is shown as ‘lose’:

  5. […] the Sun” in our hymnary, contrary to the recommendation of the Book of Praise committee.  I commented on this hymn earlier and I’m glad that it’s been […]

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