Finding the Holy Spirit in this Long metre hymn
American Adoniram Judson spent time abroad as a pioneering missionary. He did missionary work in India but he and his first wife ran into difficulties with the East India Company, so they moved and carried on their missionary work in Burma (which is known today as Myanmar). As the British took over control of the country from the Burmese, Judson was held captive and imprisoned by the Burmese for two years and then released. He was by then a widower and he remarried. The Burmese translation of the Bible was the work of Judson and aside from this, he penned “Come, Holy Spirit, Dove Divine”, which was popular because of its direct reference to the Holy Spirit as vital for conversion. This is a baptism hymn, which probably came to Judson while traveling to faraway places where he worked amongst the local folk.
Like all missionaries, Judson took on this work knowing that he risked difficult conditions, even life-threatening disease. It was his life’s work encapsulated into the hymn he wrote. The version performed at present appeared on the Baptist hymnal The Psalmist (1847). He returned for a few years to the US, influencing more people to become missionaries during the Great Century which was a time of massive missionary campaigns worldwide. After that, he spent much of his time completing a Burmese-English dictionary in Burma where he died.
Anglican priest H. Percy Smith composed the tune “Maryton” (1874) which has an 18.104.22.168-meter. Smith became the chaplain of Christ Church in Cannes, France (1882) and Canon of the Gibraltar Cathedral (1892) after two posts in England (Surrey and Eversley). Smith’s tune “Maryton” is the hymn setting not just for “Come, Holy Spirit, Dove Divine” but also for another hymn, “O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee” by Washington Gladden.