Posted by: rcottrill | August 9, 2010

Today in 1712 – When All Thy Mercies published

Joseph Addison was the greatest English writer of his time, and one of the greatest of all time. He studied law and political science and became, for a time, the chief secretary for Ireland. As the eighteenth century dawned Addison was beginning to show his surpassing skill as an essayist. He helped to establish the Spectator, a daily paper, in which he published many of his writings.

Addison preceded the Wesleys by a generation, but they recognized the way in which his strong Christian influence paved the way for their ministry. As you read John Wesley’s comment, you may be thinking as I did, “We need another Joseph Addison today!” He wrote,

God raised up Mr. Addison and his associates to lash the prevailing vices and ridiculous profane customs of the country, and to show the excellence of Christianity and Christian institutions. The Spectators were the first instrument in the hands of God to check the mighty and growing profanity, and call men back to religion and decency and common sense.

When All Thy Mercies, O My God is a hymn about God’s loving care of us through every phase of our lives, from our conception in the womb and on to eternity. The lines of verse were included in an essay on gratitude appearing in the Spectator. I’ve quoted a couple of verses below, but it is worth your while to go to the Cyber Hymnal and read the full hymn text. (Incidentally, I like the tune Belmont for this hymn, though the Cyber Hymnal doesn’ t list it as a possibility as yet.)

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.

Through ev’ry period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue,
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.

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

(2) Today in 1813 – Christian Bateman Born
British clergyman Christian Henry Bateman served successively as a pastor in the Moravian church, as well as in Congregational and Anglican churches. He wrote many hymns, but only one remains in common use today, Come, Christians, Join to Sing. The song originally appeared in Bateman’s book, Sacred Melodies for Children, and the opening line was “Come, children, join to sing.” The change was made to render the hymn more widely useful.

Come, Christians, join to sing–Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King–Alleluia! Amen!
Let all with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice: Alleluia! Amen!

Here’s a link to a virtuoso piano arrangement of the tune Madrid, in which the pianist seems to make use of every note on the piano several times over!

(3) Today in 1933 – William Draper Died
William Henry Draper was an Anglican clergyman who also wrote about 60 hymns. But the song for which he is best know was written by another. In 1919, for a children’s festival on Whitsuntide (Pentecost), Draper published a paraphrase of Francis of Assisi’s Italian hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King.

The hymn was written shortly before Francis’s death, but was not published for another 400 years, appearing in English nearly 700 years after he died. It was written during an unusually hot summer, when Francis was ill and losing his sight. He was in great pain, as his eyes were highly sensitive to the light. His misery was increased by some field mice that had infested his hut, likely finding a home in the straw walls. When he lay down to rest, they boldly ran back and forth over his face. Yet, writing in those desperate circumstances, Francis created a glowing masterpiece.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!


  1. […] Today in 1874 – David Evans Born Welshman David Evans attended University College in Cardiff, Wales, and received a Doctor of Music Degree from Oxford. He played the organ in a Presbyterian church in London, and was a professor of music at University College. Evans was also a choral conductor, and served as a judge at the National Eisteddfod, the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe, eight days of performances entirely in the Welsh language. Evans arranged a traditional Spanish melody and it became the hymn tune Madrid, used with the song, Come, Christians, Join to Sing. (For information on the writing of the words, see the second item under Today in 1712.) […]

  2. […] 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 […]

    • I was drawn to “When All Thy Mercies” by Fernando Ortega. He has a beautiful arrangement on his Hymns of Worship CD.

  3. All Creatures is an interesting hymn. I am not so keen on the Mother Earth verse, it seems to mix pagan and Christian ideas.

    I do love the African anthem based on this text, O Sifuni Mungu 🙂

    FYI, for the small church choir, it is available in a 2 part arrangement.

    For large groups, 8-part male chorus!

    • H-m-m… Well, I see what you mean about Francis’s reference to “mother earth.” It may have come from a pagan influence. On the other hand, it could simply be figurative language, a personification of the fruitful earth. In the same way Hebrew poetry gives us trees clapping their hands in praise of God, Isa. 55:12.) As to O Sifuni Mungo…interesting. I wouldn’t likely make use of it in a church service, at least the kind of churches in which I’m involved–unless it was for a congregation of African people. 🙂 I can see the song being used at a choral concert though.

  4. I serve a congregation that is predominantly African-American, so O Sifuni Mungu was a nice challenge piece for us.

    I don’t know if the mother earth reference was pagan or not, but I would err on the side of caution here, and omit the verse so as to avoid confusion. I will also give Francis the benefit of the doubt! 🙂

    • You got me curious about the familial imagery used in Francis’s hymn. Of course, we’re dealing with William Draper’s English version. I hunted up a more literal translation of the original and found that it’s dotted with such language (e.g. brother sun and sister moon, brother wind and sister water, brother fire, and “our sister, mother earth”). I agree, I’d probably omit the stanza, to avoid misunderstanding–especially with the prevalence of New Age notions abroad, etc.

  5. […] Here is the original tune as it appears in Haydn’s masterful oratorio, The Creation. The music was adapted for congregational use with Addison’s hymn. (You can hear the hymn tune played on the Cyber Hymnal. For more about Addison and another of his hymns, see Today in 1712.) […]

  6. […] published by Benjamin Carr in 1825, as a piano selection, and later arranged as a hymn tune Links: Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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