1. How beauteous are their feet,
Who stand on Zion’s hill,
Who bring salvation on their tongues,
And words of peace reveal.
2. How charming is their voice!
How sweet the tidings are!
Zion, behold your Saviour–King,
He reigns and triumphs here.
3. How happy are our ears,
To hear this joyful sound!
Which kings and prophets waited for,
And sought, but never found.
4. How blessed are our eyes,
That see this heav’nly light!
Which prophets, kings, desired so long,
But died without the sight.
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The words are from Isaac Watts and illustrate the importance of true Gospel ministers.
The work of true Gospel ministers is to bring God’s message of salvation to the world. They not only tell about the Saviour, but God’s power accompanies their work to make it effective in the hearts of the people, so that the Saviour reigns in them, and they know the power, love, and obedience that distinguishes His kingdom.
It is also important that the church test these ministers to make sure they are really appointed by God. In our time, it is common to accept any man who can “speak well”, or who is approved by the church board, or who has a theology or ministerial degree from an established christian educational institution. But these qualifications do not necessarily constitute a man as a spokesperson for God. This is especially the case when a church becomes hardened in traditional ways and no longer advances in truth.
The early church tested its appointed men carefully. They are even commended in the book of Revelation for doing so:
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
How did the early church test these apostles? First, they had to possess the true gospel, the one that had power to save from sin:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
Second, they had to have a holy character and good experience in judgment:
3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Third, they had to be free from self-exaltation, knowing that ministry in God’s kingdom means humble service:
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
Fourth, they had to have a good knowledge of the Scriptures and ability to reason from them:
2 Timothy 2
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
And lastly, they had to have a burden from the Lord to do the work, so that they would not dare put it down when it became difficult:
2 Corinthians 11
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
When these tests are applied, the church will be spared much grief and from being led astray by messages that are not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then they will be able to fully appreciate the men whom God has chosen and whose messages will bless their lives with the fruit of the Holy Spirit as they apply them in their daily lives.
About the melody
The tune is from Ananias Davisson. Davisson was one of those fascinating and resourceful early Americans, who seemed to be good at many different trades/businesses. One biography describes him as follows:
Ananias Davisson (1780-1857) was a successful entrepreneur, farmer, businessman, and publisher. Born in Shenandoah County, Virginia, Davisson lived most of his life in and around Harrisonburg, VA (Rockingham County). In 1816, Davisson published “Kentucky Harmony” which was an immediate success and ultimately became the model for most shaped-note tunebooks published in the Shenandoah Valley and throughout the South. Davisson’s collection, which went through many editions, utilized popular melodies of the day including folk hymns and anthems from some of the popular New England singing school manuals (Billings, Wyeth, et al).
This tune came from Davisson’s “Kentucky Harmony,” and is a beautiful pentatonic (5-tone scale) melody, definitely in the folk tradition. This practice, of putting together collections of sacred music from rural traditions, went on from the time of the American Revolution, until about the mid-1800′s. The “Sacred Harp” was the most popular of these collections. After that time, more popular urban music, inspired by European practices, began to push the rural music out of common use.