Posted by: rcottrill | August 23, 2010

Today in 1712 – The Spacious Firmament published

This great hymn, based on Ps. 19:1-6, appeared in The Spectator, a weekly paper edited by the author, Joseph Addison. It was appended to an article he wrote called “An Essay on the Proper Means of Strengthening and Confirming Faith in the Mind of Man.” There, he said,

Graphic Earth in SpaceFaith and devotion naturally grow in the mind of every reasonable man, who sees the impression of divine power and wisdom in every object on which he casts his eye. The Supreme Being has made the best arguments for His own existence in the formation of the heavens and the earth.

Addison’s skill as one of the greatest writers in the English language reaches sublime heights in this hymn. The words are thrilling, even to read. And, if a congregation sings the hymn well and thoughtfully, it may raise some goose bumps! Appropriately, the tune used for the hymn (called Creation) is adapted from “The Heavens Are Telling,” a chorus in the 1798 oratorio The Creation, by Franz Josef Haydn.

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round this 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.”

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.)

THE “TOTAL MESSAGE” OF A SONG. Have you thought about what goes to make up the total message of a song? When we sing hymns and gospel songs, especially when they are presented to the people of God as a ministry in music, we need to consider how the message is communicated. Click on the title above to read about five important elements in the “total message.”

(2) Today in 1970 – Jack Vandall Died
Napoleon Bonaparte Vandall was known to his friends as Jack. Often with the gospel songs, for which he wrote both words and music, he is listed as N. B. Vandall. (We can perhaps sympathize with his desire to avoid using his given names!) Mr. Vandall was an evangelist with the Church of the Nazarene. He and his wife Margaret (who was instrumental in bringing him to faith in Christ) made their home in Akron, Ohio. They had four sons.

In the early years of his ministry, financial difficulties and other problems made it tempting for him to abandon full-time Christian service and return to a business career he had left behind. But in that time of testing the Lord reassured him that his faithful service would be fully rewarded one day. With his mind on that encouraging prospect, N. B. Vandall wrote the beautiful gospel song, My Home, Sweet Home. I can recall singing it in a men’s choir, long ago. Then, years later, I conducted a large choir in singing the song. (To read the touching story behind Mr. Vandall’s song called After, see Today in 1896.)

Walking along life’s road one day,
I heard a voice so sweetly say,
“A place up in heav’n I am building thee,
A beautiful, beautiful home.”

Home, sweet home,
Home, sweet home,
Where I’ll never roam.
I see the light of that city so bright-
My home, sweet home.

Life’s day is short–I soon shall go
To be with Him who loved me so;
I see in the distance that shining shore,
My beautiful, beautiful home.


  1. […] There is a post script to the story. Paul did survive, finally entering his heavenly home at the age of 75. (To read about Jack Vandall’s other lovely song about heaven, see the second item under Today in 1970.) […]

  2. […] There is a post script to the story. Paul did survive, finally entering his heavenly home at the age of 75. (To read about Jack Vandall’s other lovely song about heaven, My Home, Sweet Home, see the second item under Today in 1970.) […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber Hymnal […]

  5. It was wonderful reading about my grandfather’s wonderful songs. My favorite was always “My Sins are Gone.” I think as a little girl, I liked the happy, upbeat tune. Patricia Vandall Carano

    • How delightful to hear from you. The two songs I reference have always been favourites of mine, for congregational singing, choral presentations and solos. Thanks for your visit, and come back again!


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