Ye Holy Angels Bright

Ye Holy Angels Bright

Dear Friends,

Do you find that the words of certain songs and hymns we sing particularly strike a chord with you and lift your spirits? ‘Ye Holy Angels Bright’, by Richard Baxter, is one of the hymns that does it for me. I am not sure we sing it very often at St. Andrew’s, but I love this hymn and – as I am sure you suspected – I am about to tell you why.

Click here to read the hymn

Ye holy angels bright,
who wait at God’s right hand,
or through the realms of light
fly at your Lord’s command,
assist our song,
for else the theme
too high doth seem
for mortal tongue.

Ye blessed souls at rest,
who ran this earthly race
and now, from sin released,
behold your Saviour’s face,
his praises sound,
as in his sight
with sweet delight
ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below,
adore your heavenly King,
and onward as ye go
some joyful anthem sing;
take what he gives
and praise him still,
through good or ill,
who ever lives!

My soul, bear thou thy part,
triumph in God above:
and with a well-tuned heart
sing thou the songs of love!
Let all thy days
till life shall end,
whate’er he send,
be filled with praise! 


I love the way it moves from heaven (the ‘angels bright’ and our brothers and sisters now at rest) to earth, where we ‘toil below’. I tend to focus on where I am and when I am; my eyes drop and my heart often wilts. But there is an unseen world (which is no less real for being unseen) where one day we too will live. In fact, we need our eyes lifting to see that we are already part of it now because when we sing ‘some joyful anthem’, we are joining in with that great crowd already gathered around the throne of Jesus, singing his praises. Which is why Richard Baxter calls on the angels to ‘assist our song, for else the theme too high doth seem for mortal tongue!’

I love the way he describes our brothers and sisters who are already with the Lord as those ‘who ran this earthly race and now, from sin released, behold your Saviour’s face’. It is wonderful to know that one day the battle with sin will be done, and we will see Jesus, and that will be ‘sweet delight’.

Baxter was persecuted for his faith in Christ, and once even the bed on which he was lying sick was confiscated. He knew what it was to suffer and ‘toil below’. So I love the fact that he can still encourage us to ‘adore our heavenly king’, even to ‘take what he gives and praise him still, through good or ill’. When life is tough, how can we do this? The last verse tells us – we are to ‘triumph in God above’. By which he means we are to remember that whatever else we might lose, his great unfailing love and all he has done for us can never be taken away from us. To know this is to have a ‘well-tuned heart’ which, come what may, is able to sing ‘the songs of love’.

And so we say to ourselves ‘Let all thy days till life shall end, whate’er he send, be filled with praise!’

It’s a good one to sing in the shower in the morning.

With love in Christ,

Joe Dent