[Introduction to the final hymn with the prayers of intercession]
The hymn May this new year was written on New Years Day 1794 by one of our ancestors. The manuscript was brought to Melbourne in 1849 by the great grandmother of one of the members of this congregation. It was created in the time of the revolutionary wars with France, the time we remember as the reign of terror when the King and Queen of France went with many others to the guillotine; but it was a time when the principles of liberty and justice were being tested, and the world was never the same again. Thomas Marsom saw this, for he belonged to family that had struggled in the past for liberty. They were amongst the founders of the Baptist Church in England. His great grandfather was founder of the Baptist Church at Luton at the time following the English Civil War when it was a crime to preach without a license. In the sixteen-seventies he was in prison with John Bunyan, for preaching outside the established Church. Bunyan gave him the manuscript of The Pilgrim's Progress to read - and he advised him to publish it!
The non-conformist traditions of the Reformation in England and Scotland, together with those of Holland and other parts of Northern Europe, were the crucible of civil liberties in Western civilization, now shared with much of the rest of the world, and the younger Thomas Marsom who wrote our hymn 200 years ago, saw the same at stake in the events then taking place across the Channel in France. So he wrote in criticism of the kings of the nations which had combined against the new government of France:
The potsherds of the earth together strive
Against a Nation and they would deprive
Them of that form of government they choose
Which Government say they - we do refuse
We will appoint a Government for you
And your Equality we will subdue
Thus all together join to arms they fly
to raise the drooping head of monarchy.
He then went on the bemoan the tragic loss of life - `thousands perish at ambitions shrine' and after warning of God's judgment he offered his prayer for peace in verses which we will sing today. That desire for peace is still with us as children of God, and so is the sense of justice.
When the great granddaughter of the author Thomas Marsom arrived in the raw new village of Melbourne in 1849 bringing two unpublished volumes of Marsom's poems with her, she and her husband were met by her brother-in-law Richard Heales, who a few years later become an early member of the colonial Parliament of Victoria. He was s tradesman, a coach maker, and seeing himself as a workers representative, some 40 years before the Australian Labour Party was formed. He became Premier in the 1860s and advanced the cause of public education and other welfare measures. The town of Healesville is named after him. The Puritan traditions of liberty were established in this land by families such as this.
So the sacred is related to the secular, the flesh and to the spirit, the transformation of the culture to commitment in faith to God and his kingdom. It is a messy business, we can always be wrong and yet we run the risk, to follow the way, the light and the life of the Word that was made flesh. So it was with the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the cosmic Christ, who emptied himself and took the form of a servant.
May this new year
1 May this new year our ears no more be filled
With the account of fellow mortals killed;
Forbid it mighty God, and peace restore;
May such convulsions shake the earth no more.
2 Hasten the happy times when war shall cease,
And every nation rest in perfect peace;
When superstition shall be done away,
And Christ shall reign with universal sway;
3 When the whole earth the Gospel will receive,
And distant nations shall on Christ believe;
When every kingdom shall learn war no more,
And peace extend itself from shore to shore.
Thomas Marsom 1743-1815
[New Year's Day 1794]
[Tune Woodlands or Bread of Life (AHB 109, 334) or other 10 10.10 10 metre]
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