Christ, whose glory fills the skies

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o'er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

This hymn by the great writer Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was first published in his Hymns and Sacred Poems (1740) with the title ‘A Morning Hymn’. It draws upon Malachi 4:2, for the words ‘Sun of Righteousness’ - "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings". The fifth line echoes St Luke 1:78 - "The dayspring from on high hath visited us to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." It was regarded by James Montgomery as "one of Charles Wesley’s loveliest progeny". It has been stated that "from the brilliant assurance of the first line to the triumphant final image, it has a poetic sweep and imaginative command that are rare even for Charles Wesley". Other biblical references are - in verse 1 line 2: John 1:9, line 6: 2 Peter 1:19, and verse 3 line 6: Proverbs 4:18. For many years this hymn was mistakenly attributed to Augustus Montague Toplady, author of ‘Rock of ages’, and it did not appear in its complete form until the publication of the Wesleyan Hymn Book (1875).

Charles Wesley is well known as the brother of John, founder of Methodism. He was a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a college tutor. After Anglican ordination he travelled the country on horseback before settling in Bristol (1756), and finally in London (1771). Charles remained opposed to separation from the Church of England, unlike his brother John. He is believed to have written as many as 6,500 hymns, which makes him the most prolific of English hymn writers.

Tune - Ratisbon

The tune most commonly used for this hymn today is Ratisbon, which was first associated with it in the original Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). The tune is derived from a melody in J G Werner’s Choral-Buch zu den neuen protestantischen Gesangbüchern (Leipzig, 1815) set to ‘Jesu, meines Lebens Leben’. Werner (1777-1822) was organist and director of music at Merseburg.

Nigel Day
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 31st January 1998