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mqdefaultAurelius Clemens Prudentius was born in Spain in 348 A.D. He was loyal to the Roman Empire and considered it an “instrument in the hands of Providence for the advancement of Christianity.”

Thirty-five years prior to his birth, Christianity had been granted full toleration under the Edict of Milan. With Constantine’s conversion, Christianity became the favored religion of the Empire, a change that is oft maligned by younger evangelicals suspicious of “Christendom,” but must have been a welcome relief and answer to prayer for the beleagured saints in the fourth century.

Prudentius was trained to be a lawyer and rose to high office, serving as a powerful judge. He rose through the ranks of the state and finished his civil career as a court official for the Christian Emperor Theodosius.

At the age of fifty-seven, at the height of his power and prestige, Prudentius grew weary of civic life and considered his life thus far to have been a waste. He was having a midlife crisis (or, given the age span at the time, more like an almost-at-the-end-of-my-life crisis). So the successful lawyer, judge, and civil servant retired to write hymns and poetry. For the last decade of his life, before his death around 413, Prudentius wrote some of the most beautiful hymns of his day.

His poetry was treasured throughout the Middle Ages. His collection of twelve long poems (Cathemerinon), one for each hour of the day, became the foundation for several of the office hymns of the church. But without a doubt, Prudentius’ best known hymn today is Corde Natus Ex Parentis–Of the Father’s Love Begotten.

It was translated into English by John Mason Neale and Henry Baker in the 1850s. It was included in the book Hymns Ancient and Modern and given the plainsong chant-like melody Divinum Mysterium (Divine Mystery), which may date back as far as the twelfth century.

The hymn/poem originally contained nine verses. The song tells the story of redemption. Verse one speaks of the Son’s eternal nature. Verse two is about creation. Verse three chronicles the fall. Verse four moves into redemption with the virgin birth. Verse five links the Christ child to ancient prophecies. Verse six is a chorus of praise to the Messiah. Verse seven warns of final judgment for the wicked. Verse eight tells of men, women, and children singing their songs of praise. And verse nine concludes the hymn with a song of victory to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Most Christians will recognize many of the verses, but sadly not all.

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd;
He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
Doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed,
Righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted
None in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive,
Evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men,
Thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring,
Evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

I couldn’t find a real good rendition of the song online. The clip below is not much to look at (ok, there’s really nothing to look at), but the sound is lovely.

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11 thoughts on “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

  1. Sam says:

    try this one by my friend Kemper Crabb:

  2. Christiane says:

    KEVIN, thank you for the full lyrics of the hymn.
    Hope you enjoy this visual meditation on the melody:

  3. Kelly says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite beautifully-stirring hymns, especially at Christmas. I first heard it in college at Moody Bible Institute. This year, we included verses 1 and 4 at the top of our Christmas letter to family and friends. Thanks for the history about it. Merry Christmas!

  4. Thomas Ross says:

    I like this hymn a great deal also. However, isn’t changing the first line from the original statement that the Son is begotten of the Father’s “heart,” that is, of His substance, to that He is begotten of the Father’s “love” changing the hymn’s teaching from orthodox, homoousian Trinitarianism to Arianism? Christ is not begotten of the Father’s “love,” although believers, God’s children by adoption, not by nature and by essence, e. g., 1 John 3:1.

  5. I enjoyed the imbedded you tube videos, especially Kemper Crabb, very different

  6. Neville Briggs says:

    I wonder why this hymn doesn’t mention the cross, I thought that was the central event in the story of redemption, or so it seems from the writings of the apostles.

  7. anaquaduck says:

    Maybe you have done a post on this before or I read it somwhere else. A bit different to buying a motor bike for a mid life crisis.

    Usually death & sorrow are not things that we would take on, Jesus however goes all the way. Its a nice song but i would prefer it as a modern hymn.

    The melody is beautiful…praise God for his many good gifts

  8. David Grubbs says:

    As a Nativity or Advent ode, this song looks back on Christ’s first coming in humility and looks forward to His second coming in judgment. As such, that the cross is not named isn’t unusual or indicative of a Gospel lapse on Prudentius’s part. If Prudentius were writing a Passion or Resurrection Sunday song, we can be sure the cross and empty tomb would be front and center.

    The concerns of the song are particularly those of orthodox Christians of the fourth century (though not exclusively theirs, of course!):

    (1) that Christ is in very being God, divine Only-Begotten of the Father; and that Christ, as God, is our creator;
    (2) that He took on flesh that He might die for Adam’s sin-bound, death-doomed offspring as Savior and Redeemer;
    (3) that His first coming in humility was truly foretold by prophets and proclaimed in fulfillment by angels;
    (4) that His second coming in judgment is also foretold now, and that we, like the angels, must all praise and proclaim Christ as Lord, just as the angels did.

    Here we have the Nicene concern for Christ’s deity; the developing Trinitarian concern with the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit; the Gospel concern that Christ’s incarnation must be real for His death to be redemptive; the apologetic concern to anchor the Christian proclamation in the testimony of the ancient Hebrew prophets; and the eschatological concern with preparation for Christ’s second coming. And for all of these reasons, all Christians everywhere must unite their praises to the unending chorus of angels above.

  9. Neville Briggs says:

    The question about the cross came to me because Mr KDY called this piece a “song that tells the story of redemption” .

    I notice that the image of the mosaic of a man with a cross on his front has been removed from this post and replaced by an image of the ” adoration of the mother and child “. Again I wonder what that means.

  10. Alan Young says:

    Not all verses but another highly attractive setting

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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