1645 - 1694 Hymnal Title: Hymns and Hymn Tunes in the English Metrical Psalters Author of "O praise the Lord, praise him, praise him" in Hymns and Hymn Tunes in the English Metrical Psalters Mason, John. The known facts of his life are scanty. He was the son of a Dissenting Minister, and the grandfather of John Mason, the author of A Treatise on Self-Knowledge. He was educated at Strixton School, Northants, and Clare Hall, Cambridge. After taking his M.A., he became Curate of Isham; and in 1668, Vicar of Stantonbury, Bucks. A little more than five years afterwards he was appointed Rector of Water-Stratford. Here he composed the volume containing The Songs of Praise, his paraphrase of The Song of Solomon, and the Poem on Dives and Lazarus, with which Shepherd's Penitential Cries was afterwards bound up. This volume passed through twenty editions. Besides the Songs of Praise, it contains six Penitential Cries by Mason, and it is this portion of his work which harmonizes with the compositions of Shepherd. Probably his hymns were used in public worship, and if so, they are among the earliest hymns so used in the Church of England. Some of his hymns are often found in the early Hymn Collections of the 18th century. The most notable work besides this volume is Select Remains of the Rev, John Mason, a collection of sententious and practical sayings and Christian letters, published by his grandson, and much eulogized by Dr. Watts. His friend, Shepherd, who was at Water-Stratford at the remarkable period to which reference is made below, published two of Mason's Sermons, with a preface of his own. Mason was a man of true piety and humility; known for eminent prayerfulness; faithful, experimental, effectual preaching; "a light in the pulpit, and a pattern out of it." His friendship with Baxter, and Shepherd, the Nonconformist Minister of Braintree, probably indicates his sympathies and theological position. Baxter calls him "the glory of the Church of England," and says :—
"The frame of his spirit was so heavenly, his deportment so humble and obliging, his discourse of spiritual things so weighty, with such apt words and delightful air, that it charmed all that had any spiritual relish.”
The close of his life was sensational enough. One night, about a month before his death, he had a vision of the Lord Jesus, wearing on His head a glorious crown, and with a look of unutterable majesty in His face. Of this vision he spoke; and preached a Sermon called The Midnight Cry, in which he proclaimed the near approach of Christ's Second Advent. A report spread that this Advent would take place at Water-Stratford itself, and crowds gathered there from the surrounding villages. Furniture and provisions were brought in, and every corner of the house and village occupied. Most extraordinary scenes occurred, singing and leaping and dancing. The excitement had scarcely died out when the old man passed away (1694), still testifying that he had seen the Lord, and that it was time for the nation to tremble, and for Christians to trim their lamps. His last words were, “I am full of the loving kindness of the Lord."
[Rev. H. Leigh Bennett, M.A.]
The full titles of his Songs of Praise, and the additions thereto, are:—
(1) Spiritual Songs; or, Songs of Praise to Almighty God upon several occasions, 1683. (2) The Song of Songs which is Solomon's first Turned, then Paraphrased in English Verse. Published with the former. (3) Dives and Lazarus, incorporated with the former 1685. (4) Penitential Cries, Begun by the Author of the Songs of Praise, And carried on by another Hand. Licensed and Entered, Sept. 13, 1693. This forms the concluding part of all editions of the Songs of Praise after 1693. The complete work was reprinted by D. Sedgwick in 1859. This reprint was accompanied by a short Memoir. In this reprint Mason's Penitential Cries and Ps. 86 are given under Songs of Praise, pp. 49-61, those under Penitential Cries being all by Shepherd (q.v.). Mason's Life, by John Dunton, was published in 1694, and included some miscellaneous poems; and another, by Henry Maurice, in 1695, in which are two hymns not found elsewhere. We may add that Mason published a Catechism, with some Verses for Children. Of this, however, no copy is known to exist.
Mason's Songs are commonly presented in modern hymnbooks in the form of centos, which are sometimes compiled from a single Song, and in other instances from several Songs. Many of these are annotated under their respective first lines. The rest include:—
1. Blest be my God that I was born. Praise for the Gospel.
2. Lord, for the mercies of the night. Morning.
3. Lord of my life, Length of my days. Praise for Deliverance from Immediate danger of Death.
4. My God, a God of pardon is. Praise for Pardon of Sin.
5. My God, my only Help and Hope. Praise for Providence.
6. My God, my reconciled God. Praise for Peace of Conscience.
7. My God was with me all this night. Morning.
8. Thou wast, 0 God; and Thou wast blest. Praise for Creation.
9. Thousands of thousands stand around. Praise. A cento from Songs i. and ii.
In Griffith, Farran & Co.'s Ancient and Modern Library, No. 12, Giles Fletcher's Christ's Victory and Triumph, &c, 1888, p. 208 (edited by W. T. Brooke), a short hymn by Mason is given from Multum in Parvo: or the Jubilee of Jubilees, 1732, beginning "High praises meet and dwell within." It is an indifferent example of Mason's powers as a writer of sacred verse.
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Mason, J., p. 716, ii. Mason's Midnight Cry, stated on p. 717, i. as having been preached in 1694, was delivered in 1691. The 1st ed. of this sermon is:—
“The Midnight Cry. A Sermon Preached On the Parable of the Ten Virgins . . . . By J. M., M.A., Rector of W. in the County of B., London: Nathanael Ranew . . 1691.
This edition has no hymns. To the 4th ed. in 1692, published by the same Nathanael Ranew, there was added:—
The Fourth Edition, with the Addition of two Hymns for the Coming of Christ. By the same Author.
The first of these hymns begins:—
"The evening of the Day
Portends a dismal night,"
and is in 12 stanzas of 8 lines. The second hymn is:—
"Come, come, my dearest, dearest Lord,
Make haste and come away."
This is in 14 stanzas of 4 lines. Of the first and fifth eds. there are copies in the Brit. Museum, and of the first in the Julian Collection of the Church House, London.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)