Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: John Sylvester Fearis (b. Feb. 5, 1867; d. Sept. 2, 1932)
Note: This is a Trinitarian hymn. And in its topical index, the Cyber Hymnal lists fifty-two such hymns, here. Written in 1901, this selection is one of Fanny Crosby’s later ones.
As noted in the Wordwise Hymns link, Alfred B. Smith, in editing his fine hymnal Living Hymns, made some minor alternations in the words of the hymn, and wrote his own tune for it. It doesn’t seem to me that most of the changes in the lyrics are an improvement, but I like (and have used) the tune. The one by Fearis works well too, if you’re more familiar with that.
Fanny Crosby, at the age of eighty-one, has given us this fine hymn addressing the Trinity, with each of the three stanzas exalting (praising) one Person of the Godhead, in turn. Alfred Smith calls it:
“The Doxology of a life which had unstintingly dedicated its love and talents to serving a wonderful God. It was Fanny Crosby’s way of saying, ‘Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’” (Treasury of Hymn Stories, p. 215).
There is only one true God, eternally existing in three Persons. Though the Bible never uses the word “Trinity,” the triune nature of God is made clear in the way it speaks of the Son and the Holy Spirit in equal terms with God the Father. And there are a number of texts where the three are brought together.
It’s difficult–if not downright impossible–for us to envision the three-in-oneness of God, given that there’s nothing in the natural world that makes an adequate illustration of it. The triquetra (try-KWET-rah), pictured here, is an ancient symbol of the Godhead. It is one figure, with three distinct points. But the points are interwoven in such a way that they are each part of the whole.
Each Person of the Trinity has His own specific work in relation to man (cf. II Cor. 13:14), and each operates separately to some extent, but never in absolute independence. We have an example of this at the baptism of the Lord Jesus. God the Son submitted Himself to be baptized by John, the Holy Spirit, taking the visible form of a dove, descended on Christ, and from heaven God the Father declared His pleasure in His Son (Matt. 3:13-17). And “All should honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (Jn. 5:23).
As to the Holy Spirit, more than two dozen times in the Scriptures He is called “the Spirit of God.” He is credited with acting in creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4), and engages in other activities where His deity is revealed (cf. Exod. 31:3; Matt. 12:28; Rom. 8:14; I Cor. 3:16). We can say that God inspired all the Scriptures, as the Bible does (II Tim. 3:16), and it is equally valid to say this was the work of the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:21) To attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit is to attempt to deceive God (Acts 5:3-4).
When we exalt the God of the Bible–something we are repeatedly called to do–we can be confident we are giving glory to the unique and transcendent triune God presented to us there. “The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted [lifted up, extolled with praises]” (Ps. 18:46; cf. 21:13; 57:5; 97:9; 118:28).
CH-2) Be Thou exalted, O Son of the Highest!
Gracious Redeemer, our Saviour and King!
One with the Father, co-equal in glory,
Here at Thy footstool our homage we bring.
Be Thou exalted by seraphs and angels,
Be Thou exalted with harp and with song;
Saints in their anthems of rapture adore Thee,
Martyrs the loud hallelujahs prolong.
CH-3) Be Thou exalted, O Spirit eternal!
Dwell in our hearts, keep us holy within;
Lead to Thy home in the life everlasting,
Open its portals and welcome us in.
1) What, in your view, are the greatest hymns of praise to God in our traditional hymn books?
2) What other Trinitarian hymns are you familiar with? (If you need some hints, check out the topical file on the Cyber Hymnal.)