"Keeping the Hymns Close By"

Fairest Lord Jesus

Text - From Munster Gesangbuch, 1677.
4th verse translated by Joseph A. Seiss, 1823 - 1904
Music - From Schlesische Volkslieder, 1842. Adapted by Richard S. Willis, 1819 - 1900

For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: All things were created by Him, and for Him. Colossians 1:16

Little is known of the origin of this cherished hymn. Associated with it are several popular legends which cannot always be substantiated by research. One account is that it was one of the hymns used by the singing followers of John Hus, a small band of believers who settled in Silesia (now part of Poland) after they were driven out of Bohemia in the bloody anti-Reformation purge of 1620. This hymn, then, is generally said to be a folk song derived from these devout Silesian peasants.

The text for the hymn first appeared in the Munster Gesangbuch of 1677, where it was published as the "first of three beautiful selected new hymns." Later it is said that a man by the name of Hoffman Fallersleben heard a group of Silesians singing the hymn in a service, recorded the words and music from this oral recitation, and published it in his Schlesische Volkslieder in 1842. This is the form in which we now know the hymn.

No one knows for certain who first translated the text from German into English. The English adaption by Richard Storrs Willis, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 10, 1819, first appeared in his Church Chorals and Choir Studies in 1850. Richard Willis is also the composer of the Christmas carol "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear," (December 2014 KHCB Hymn of the Month).

The fourth verse, a translation by pastor and theologian Joseph A. Seiss, was added in 1873. It emphasizes the dual nature of the Savior--"Son of God and Son of Man" as well as the praise that will be eternally His. .

Taken from 101 Hymn Stories Copyright © 1982, 2012 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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