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Hymns of My Youth II: I Heard the Bells

This hymn may raise eyebrows as a Christmas hymn, having no reference to Christ, and probably being acceptable to anyone with a vague belief in a benevolent god. Still, to those of us who know the one true God of the Bible, it speaks of the eschatological hope that belongs to us alone.

My hymnal has the verses of this hymn rearranged, as in the recording below. I thought it best to present them in their original order.


I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Additional information from cyberhymnal.org:

This hymn was written during the American civil war, as reflected by the sense of despair in the next to last stanza. Stanzas 4–5 speak of the battle, and are usually omitted from hymnals:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Posted 2011·12·24 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Christmas · Great Hymns of the Faith · Sovereignty

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