Posted by: rcottrill | May 1, 2010

Today in 1672 – Joseph Addison Born

Though he was born over 300 years ago, the hymns of Joseph Addison can stir us still. He is considered the greatest English writer of his time, and his stature is undiminished today. He was instrumental in establishing a daily newspaper called The Spectator. Its stated purpose was to “bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in the clubs and assemblies; at tea tables, and in coffee houses.”

Many hymn books include one or two of Addison’s hymns. When All Thy Mercies praises the Lord for his ongoing care from the author’s conception in the womb, and on into eternity, covering each stage of life in between.

Joseph Addison’s hymn The Spacious Firmament is an eloquent commentary on the beginning of Psalm 19. He was affirming “intelligent design” long before that became a popular phrase.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. (Ps. 19:1-3)

The hymn concludes:

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

Less well known is Joseph Addison’s hymn praising God for His protection. It was written in recollection of a terrible storm Addison experienced in the Mediterranean, and printed in The Spectator on September 20th, 1712. How Are Thy Servants Blessed, O Lord has also been called The Traveler’s Hymn.

How are Thy servants blest, O Lord!
How sure is their defense!
Eternal wisdom is their guide,
Their help Omnipotence.

When by the dreadful tempest borne
High on the broken wave,
They know Thou art not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.

The storm is laid, the winds retire,
Obedient to Thy will,
The sea, that roars at Thy command,
At Thy command is still.

From all our griefs and fears, O Lord,
Thy mercy sets us free;
While in the confidence of prayer
Our hearts take hold on Thee.

(2) Today in 1887 – Joseph Tritton Died
Englishman Joseph Tritton was a Christian layman, and a partner for over 40 years in the banking house of Barclay, Bevan, Tritton and Company. He also served as the treasurer of the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society for many years. Mr. Tritton wrote a number of hymns, among them Behold He Comes, about the return of Christ in triumph.

Behold He comes! the glorious King
Whom once a cross upbore;
Let saints redeemed His praises sing,
And angels hosts adore.

The reed, the purple, and the thorn,
Are lost in triumph now;
His person robes of light adorn,
And crowns of gold His brow.

Dear Lord, no more despised, disowned,
A victim bound and slain;
But in the power of God enthroned,
Thou dost return to reign.


  1. […] other magnificent hymn of Addison’s in common use is The Spacious Firmament, concerning the glory of God revealed in […]


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