The Morning Light Is Breaking Hymn Lyrics
1 The morning light is breaking,
The darkness disappears;
The sons of earth are waking
To penitential tears;
Each breeze that sweeps the ocean
Brings tidings from afar
Of nations in commotion,
Prepared for Zion’s war.
2 See heathen nations bending
Before the God we love,
And thousand hearts ascending
In gratitude above;
While sinners, now confessing,
The gospel call obey,
And seek the Saviour’s blessing,
A nation in a day.
3 Blest river of salvation,
Pursue thine onward way;
Flow thou to every nation,
Nor in thy richness stay;
Stay not till all the lowly
Triumphant reach their home;
Stay not till all the holy
Proclaim, ‘The Lord is come!
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The Morning Light Is Breaking Hymn History
This missionary hymn of optimism and of challenge to the Christian Church was written in the same year and by the same author as our national hymn, “My country, tis of thee.”
The author was the Rev. Samuel Francis Smith, of whom his classmate in Harvard University, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote in the Class Poem of 1829:
And there’s a fine youngster of excellent pith, – Fate tried to conceal him by naming him, Smith.
The year of its composition was 1832, when the author graduated from Andover Theological Seminary, entered the Baptist ministry, and became editor of the Baptist Missionary Magazine.
Little wonder that he should have written a missionary hymn in a year of such missionary interest to himself!
The hymn was first published in a hymnal that was under preparation that same year, Hastings Spiritual Songs.
In 1843 the author included it in a collection of hymns entitled The Psalmist, which he and Baron Stow prepared for American Baptists a hymnal that achieved wide popularity.
Though Dr. Smith two years later left the missionary editorship to enter the pastorate at Waterville, Maine, he did not lose his intense interest in missions.
And so, after his pastorate in Newton, Massachusetts, we find him editor of the publications of the Baptist Missionary Union.
Having traveled widely among the foreign missions, Dr. Smith was enabled to write that his hymn “has been a great favorite at missionary gatherings, and I heard it sung “in five or six different languages in Europe and Asia.”