The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

How Kind is Heaven to Man!

Alternate Title: The Unnumbered Birth

For Christmas-tide

Words: Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

Music: Unknown.

Source: The Book of Christmas Hymns (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1868), p. 46.

How kind is heaven to man! If here
    One sinner doth amend
Straight there is joy, and every sphere
    In music doth contend;
And shall we then no voices lift?
    Are mercy, and salvation
Not worth our thanks? Is life a gift
    Of no more acceptation?
Shall He that did come down from thence,
    And here for us was slain,
Shall He be now cast off? No sense
    Of all His woes remain?
Can neither Love, nor sufferings bind?
    Are we all stone, and earth?
Neither His bloody passions mind,
    Nor one day bless His birth?
Alas, my God! Thy birth now here
Must not be numbered in the year.

Note: This is Part II of a longer poem from Henry Vaughan, “Christ's Nativity.” The first line of Part I is “Awake, glad heart! Get up and sing.” It was first published in Silex Scintillans: or Sacred Poems and Private Eiaculations. By Henry Vaughan, Silurist. London. Printed by J. W. for H. Blunden, at ye Castle in Corn-hill, 1650. This volume contains 110 pages.

This was reprinted as Silex Scintillans: or Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. The Second Edition, In two books; By Henry Vaughan, Silurist. London, Printed for Henry Crips, and Lodowick Lloyd, next to the Castle in Cornhill, and in Popes-Head Alley, 1655.

In the copy published in 1905, it is located on pp. 125-127.

In Lyte's edition of 1847, it is located on pp. 119-121.

The following biographical note is from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892, 1907).

Vaughan, Henry, M.D., commonly called " The Silurist," was one of twin-brothers born of a titled family at Newton, Llansaintffiad, in 1621. After studying under the Rev. Matthew Herbert, Rector ofLlangattock, he proceeded to Jesus College, Oxford, in 1638; but through the national troubles of those days, his studies, in common with those of his brother, were interrupted, and they had to leave the University. Subsequently he entered the medical profession, and practised at Brecon and at Newton. He d. April 23, 1695.

His published works include, Poems with the Tenth Satire of Juvenal Englished, 1646; Olor lscanus, 1651; The Mount of Olives, 1652, &c. As a religious poet he followed very closely the peculiarities of George Herbert, of whose writings he was a great admirer. His best and most devotional poems were written during a severe affliction, and were pub. in his Silex Scintillans. After being almost forgotten for more than 200 years, his quaint, thoughtful, devotional, and, in many instances, beautiful poems, are receiving attention at the hands of hymnal compilers and others. The title of the work in which these pieces appeared is:—

Silex Scintillans: or Sacred Poems and Private Eiaculations. By Henry Vaughan, Silurist. London. Printed by J. W. for H. Blunden, at ye Castle in Corn-hill, 1650. This contains 110 pages. This was reprinted as Silex Scintillans: or Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. The Second Edition, In two books; By Henry Vaughan, Silurist. London, Printed for Henry Crips, and Lodowick Lloyd, next to the Castle in Cornhill, and in Popes-Head Alley, 1655. The Rev. H. F. Lyte republished this work as, The Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations of Henry Vaughan, with Memoir. London, Pickering, 1847. It is also reprinted in Grosart's Fuller Worthies, 1868.

From the Silex Scintillans several pieces have been taken as hymns for public worship. In addition to those annotated under their respective first lines (see Index of Authors and Translators), the following, all from the 1st ed. of 1650, are in C. U.:—

1. As travellers when the twilight's come. Life a Pilgrimage.

2. Bright shadows of true rest! some shoots of hliss. Sundays. Sometimes as "Types of eternal rest, fair buds of bliss."

3. Joy of my life, while left me here. Guiding Stars.

4. King of mercy, King of love. God our King.

5. Lord, with what courage and delight. Cheerful­ness.

6. My. God and King, to Thee I bow my knee. Lent.
7. Since in a land not barren still. Love and Dis­cipline.

8. Up to those bright and gladsome hills. Ps. cxxi.

9. What needs a conscience, clear and bright? Conscience.

10. When one loud blast shall rend the deep. Advent. Judgment.

11. Zion's true glorious God ! on Thee. Praise.

Of Vaughan's hymns the most widely used are :—" Bright Queen of heaven," " My soul, there is a countrie," and " Up to these bright and gladsome hills." [J. J.]

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