Posted by: rcottrill | December 12, 2010

Today in 1718 – John Cennick Born

English hymnist John Cennick was born into a Quaker family. He considered becoming a surveyor but, after meeting John and Charles Wesley, he joined them in their ministry.

In those early days, Charles Wesley assisted him in polishing some of his hymn lyrics. Cennick became a lay preacher and teacher with the Methodists, but he later parted with them on some doctrinal differences. He joined with George Whitefield, and became a deacon in the United Brethren Church. He served the Lord in evangelistic itinerant work in England, Ireland, and Germany.

We have several good hymns from the pen of Mr. Cennick, including: Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending (with a text improved by Charles Wesley), and Children of the Heavenly King.

Children of the heavenly King,
As we journey, let us sing;
Sing our Saviour’s worthy praise,
Glorious in His works and ways

We are traveling home to God,
In the way the fathers trod;
They are happy now, and we
Soon their happiness shall see.

Lord, obediently we go,
Gladly leaving all below;
Only Thou our Leader be;
And we will still follow Thee.

It is also John Cennick we have to thank for the table blessing, Be Present at Our Table, Lord. (The version below is slightly altered from the original, the third line of which begins “Thy creatures bless.”)

Years ago, I sang with a men’s choir. On one occasion, we were on tour, and stopped at a restaurant to eat. Our leader simply sounded a note, and we all joined in singing Cennick’s prayer in four-part harmony. A sure conversation stopper! More recently, I was in a restaurant with some Christian friends, and was asked to say grace. Instead, I suggested we sing. At first, they thought I was kidding, but we did it! Folks seemed to appreciate the unexpected music, and it was a way of witnessing to the Source of all our blessings.

Be present at our table, Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
These mercies bless, and grant that we
May feast in paradise with Thee.

Here is a lovely choral version of this hymn by a ladies’ choir. And below is a youth choir singing a different tune, with some changes in the words as well. I’ve included it as an example of singing a blessing before mealtime.

(2) Today in 1805 – Frederic Hedge Born
Frederic Henry Hedge was a pastor and author, who also taught ecclesiastical history and German literature at Harvard University. It is Mr. Hedge who, in 1853, gave us the English translation of Martin Luther’s 1529 hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which German poet Heinrich Heine called “the Marseillaise Hymn of the Reformation.”

The term Sabaoth in the second stanza below is a Hebrew word meaning armies, or hosts. Our God is the Lord of Hosts, sovereign Commander of the armies of heaven.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.


  1. I found this website through the Crosstalk website – what a blessing!

    A question and a comment from today’s post:

    Where can I find the tune for Cennick’s table grace?

    “A Mighty Fortress” has a fourth verse . . . 🙂

    Carol Blair
    Longview, TX

    • Thanks so much for your visit and your comments Carol. As to the tune for Cennick’s table grace, it is Old Hundredth, the tune used for the Doxology, and such hymns as All People That on Earth Do Dwell. Here is Be Present at Our Table, Lord on the Cyber Hymnal–though I prefer the rendition of the tune that uses all quarter notes.

      And yes, I know that A Mighty Fortress has another stanza. (And Cennick’s hymn has two more, as you’ll see from the above link.) I’ve tried to keep each blog to a reasonable length by only giving a sampling of the stanzas of most hymns. (A lot of the older ones often have a dozen or more!) The link to the Cyber Hymnal in my sidebar will enable readers to find them all. However… Having said that, I realize that I’ve cut this particular hymn off at an important point. You’ve convinced me–if you were trying to. I’ve added the last stanza to the blog.

      Y’all come back. Questions welcome at any time.

    • I would add that the tune in the video is Tallis’ Canon. The text, “All Praise to Thee, My God, this Night” is often sung to that. Here’s the link to the Cyber Hymnal. Look like they have a PDF of the tune.

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns (about John Cennick) The Cyber […]


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