Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hymns & Hymn Writers: Night, With Ebon Pinion by David R. Kenney

The lyrics for this song were written in 1854 by Love Jameson but were not set to music until 1871 by Joseph Powell.  The meter for the song is which can be counted by syllable and phrases.  The name of the tune is called SORROWS.

Love Humphreys Jameson (1811-1892), Lyricist

Love Humphreys Jameson was born April 17, 1811 in Jefferson County, Indiana.  Indiana was a territory at this time, not becoming a State for another five years.  His parents were originally members of the Church of Scotland, which was Presbyterian.  His parents were immersed in 1816 by John McClung who was affiliated with Barton Warren Stone. Love was baptized in 1829 during a gospel meeting with Beverly Vawter, and he preached his first sermon on December 25, 1829.  He travelled with another famous evangelist, Walter Scott, in Ohio.  He even attended the 1837 debate between Alexander Campbell and John Purcell in Cincinnati and met with Alexander Campbell during these days.  He wrote news reports and other articles which appeared in Alexander Campbell’s The Millennial Harbinger.  He worked extensively on revising Alexander Campbell’s hymnbook which was completed in 1882 and called The Christian Hymnal: A Collection of Hymns and Tunes for Congregational and Social Worship.  Jameson travelled with Barton W. Stone in the latter years of Stone’s life. His name and reputation was well known among churches in Indiana in his day.  He served as Chaplain for the 79th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers which fought for the Union Army in the Civil War.

He married Elizabeth M. Clark on December 11, 1837 while working with the church in Dayton, Ohio; but she died of a stroke after they returned to live in Indiana.  They had one child, Alex C. Jameson.  He remarried to Elizabeth R. Robinson, and they had seven children:  George Jameson, Rebecca Jameson, Sarah Jameson, Bettie Jameson, Statham Jameson, Charles Jameson, and Edward Jameson.  Some estimate he wrote at least 150 hymns, and Jameson also wrote the lyrics to “There Is A Habitation”.  Love Humphreys Jameson died April 12, 1892 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and he is buried there in Crown Hill Cemetery next to his second wife.  His first wife was buried in Hebron Cemetery in Madison, Indiana.

Joseph P. Powell (1832-1926), Music

Joseph P. Powell was born May 28, 1832 in Ohio but other sources record Oregon.  The details of his life are sketchy.  Note--some sources on the Internet record events relating to the revision of Alexander Campbell’s hymnal as those of Powell, but in actuality this was Jameson, not Powell.  Joseph Powell was married to Elizabeth D. Bryant of Trumbull County, Ohio on May 11, 1854; and they had three children:  Estie, Harry, and Minnie.  Joseph Powell passed away on August 3, 1926 in Dundee, Yamhill, Oregon, and he is buried in the cemetery there next to his wife who passed away prior in 1918.

Night, With Ebon Pinion

It may be necessary to define some of the beautiful poetical terms and imagery in this verse.  The word “ebon” means dark, as in ebony, a deep darkness.  The word “pinion” may refer to a feather but also the wings of a bird.  The term “brooded” is what birds do when they spread their wings over their nest to shelter their young.  The term “vale” refers to a valley.  The imagery is that of spreading wings of darkness covering Gethsemane which was on the slope of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem.   The darkness and silence may be either literal, metaphorical, or both.  The term “Abba” is the Aramaic form of the word “Father”.  Some state that the Aramaic term “abba” is different from the Greek word for “father”, but this is not the case—the terms are the same but from two different commonly spoken languages during Jesus’ ministry:  Greek and Aramaic.  Why both terms are used can be easily understood as from a desire to speak with greater emphasis.

The lyrics of this beautiful hymn remind one of the words of the Messianic Prophet, Isaiah, who wrote of our suffering Savior: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6, NKJV.) 

Some criticize this hymn because they do not understand the beautiful poetical expressions that summarize the agony Jesus faced in the Garden, alone.  It would be far better for people to learn the truths of these words as they match the events described rather than lose a soul-stirring hymn to modern day ignorance.  He prayed fervently that there be some other way to redeem mankind rather than die for them on the cross, but there was no other way.  His friends, the apostles, were not there to comfort Him during these dark hours.  Alone, with none of His earthly friends present, He prayed “…saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:42-44a, NKJV.) 



John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN:  Praise Press, 1997.
V. E. Howard, Editor, and Broadus E. Smith, Associate Editor, Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, Texarkana, TX:  Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.

Wayne Jackson, “Song Police,”

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