Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pour le Christ et le roi, and a Fiery Gospel

We've gone through an interesting set of holidays. So for July 1st:

Scott Gilbreath has an interesting post on the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada". I confess that I always had something of contempt for the Canadian national anthem; it always seemed to me to be sort of the equivalent of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" -- not a bad song, a bit anthem-like, but containing nothing so impressive as the heavy, doubt-filled worry-hope-triumph of "The Star-Spangled Banner". But I had never really paid much attention to the (original) French, either; and that was an error, because the official French is much, much better than the official English. You can just go through the two and count the ways. To name just one: instead of the vague, generic 'We stand on guard for thee', the French "Et ta valeur, de foi trempée, / Protégera nos foyers et nos droits" is specific -- it's Canadian homes and rights that are being protected; and they are protected by faith-imbued valor.

And for July 4th, the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

There are so many things that are right about this song, I'm always impressed by it. It's triumphalistic, of course, but it subverts all our expectations. It is not we who are marching on -- it is God and truth. Our side is not the foundation of progress -- God's providence progresses whether we are with it or not (it comes like the glory of the morning on the wave, which, if you've ever seen that sight, is the perfect picture of inevitability). We are left not with an assurance of victory but an exhortation to do the right thing. And my favorite part of it all is this: the fiery gospel writ in burnished steel is -- Judge not lest you be judged (As you deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal). And that is exactly right.

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