FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS
Reginald Heber, 1783–1826
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38)
We hear many missionary sermons in our churches, but not often do we sing such a beautifully worded and challenging missionary hymn as this one, which was quickly and spontaneously written by Reginald Heber. These well-chosen words and ideas inspire us to spread the blessings of salvation to all people and nations until our Lord “in bliss returns to reign.”
Heber was a minister in the Anglican church in England. With his keen interest in world missions, he did much through his writings and influence to promote the missionary activity that greatly increased during his lifetime.
In the summer of 1819, Heber was asked by his father-in-law if he knew a worthy hymn that could be used at a missionary service the next Sunday. Reginald went at once to his study for a few minutes of quiet meditation and soon returned with the first stanzas of this text. His family was very pleased with it. Heber, however, feeling the hymn was still incomplete, returned to his study and completed the triumphant final verse.
Five years later the tune was composed specifically for Heber’s text by the noted American educator and church musician, Lowell Mason. It is said that Mason composed this tune with a great sense of inspiration.
Today, Reginald Heber is ranked as one of the foremost 19th century English hymnists, having written 57 well-known hymns, including “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As a result of his zeal for missions, he became an Anglican bishop to Calcutta, India, but died there at the age of 43. Notice how large is the Lord’s harvest field.
From Greenland’s icy mountains, from India’s coral strand, where Afric’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand, from many an ancient river, from many a palmy plain, they call us to deliver their land from error’s chain.
Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high, shall we to men benighted the lamp of life deny? Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim till earth’s remotest nation has learned Messiah’s name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters, roll, till like a sea of glory it spreads from pole to pole; till o’er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain, Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.
Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; John 4:35; Acts 1:8
Pray especially for some foreign missionary in your church, that the truth of this musical message might become a greater reality in today’s world—