By Hymn Stories
Author --Robert Grant, 1779-1838
Composer --Arranged from J. Michael Haydn, 1737-1806
Tune Name --"Lyons"
Scripture Reference --Psalm 104
"Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, Thou art very great." Psalm 104:1
Man is basically a religious though unregenerate being. In all human life there is a consciousness of a supreme power. Even the most primitive savage is a religious being as he attempts to fulfill his duties to the invisible powers he senses about him. Since the beginning of recorded time, music has always had a unique association with man's worship experiences.
The word "worship" is a contraction of an old expression in the English language, "woerth-scipe, "denoting the ascription of reverence to an object of superlative worth. A more theological definition of worship is given as follows: "An act by a redeemed man, the creature, toward God, his Creator, whereby his will, intellect and emotions gratefully respond to the revelation of God's person expressed in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit illuminates the written Word to his heart. "
This hymn, written and published in 1833 in a hymnal entitled Christian Psalmody, is one of the finest from the early nineteenth century Romantic Era. It has often been called a model hymn for worship. It has few equals in expressive lyrics in the exaltation of the Almighty. Each of the epithets applied to God--King, Shield, Defender, Ancient of Days, Maker, Redeemer, Friend--as well as the vivid imagery--such as, "His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form" and the references to His attributes--power, might, grace, bountiful care, love--all combine to describe with literary eloquence and spiritual warmth the majesty and praise-worthiness of our God.
Sir Robert Grant was born into a setting of high political life in Bengal, India, in 1779. His father, Charles, was a respected ranking leader in India and a director of the East India Company. Later he became a member of the British Parliament from Scotland. He was also a zealous leader in the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church. Robert, too, became active in business and politics and eventually was appointed Governor of Bombay in 1834. Like his father, Robert was a devout and deeply spiritual lay evangelical Christian all of his life. Though involved in secular and political pursuits, Robert Grant maintained a strong interest in the missionary outreach of the church throughout his lifetime. He was greatly loved by the people of India, who established a lasting memorial there in the form of a medical college bearing his name.
In 1839, a year after his death in India, his brother, Charles, had twelve of Robert's poems published in a little volume entitled Sacred Poems. Although several of these poem hymns received some acceptance, only this text is still in common usage in most hymnals today.
The tune for this hymn, "Lyons," first appeared in the second volume of William Gardiner's Sacred Melodies, London, 1815, where it was attributed to Haydn. However, there is an uncertainty, since in other works by these two Austrian brother musicians, Franz Joseph and the younger Johann Michael, there are several songs that begin with this same melody but none which compares exactly with Gardiner's adaptation. The first use of this tune in the United States was in 1818 in a collection entitled Sacred Melodies by Oliver Shaw.
Haydn is also the composer of the hymn, "The Day of Resurrection" (No. 89).
Also from William Gardiner's collection is the hymn, "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness" (No. 50).
"Worship renews the spirit as sleep renews the body." --Richard Clarke Cabot
"Worship is transcendent wonder. --Thomas Carlyle
"It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow." --Calvin Coolidge
"Worship is the act of rising to a personal, experimental consciousness of the real presence of God which floods the soul with joy and bathes the whole inward spirit with refreshing streams of life. --Rufus Matthew Jones
"If Socrates would enter the room we should rise and do him honor. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him." --Napoleon Bonaparte