Posted by: rcottrill | April 16, 2012

I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

Words: Timothy Dwight (b. May 14, 1752; d. Jan. 11, 1817)
Music: St. Thomas (or Williams) by Aaron Williams (b. _____, 1731; d. _____, 1776)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Published in 1801, this hymn may be the earliest written by an American that is still in common use. Of Dr. Dwight’s original eight stanzas, CH-1, 2 5, 6, and 8 are commonly used today.

A true genius, little Timothy learned the alphabet in one lesson, and was reading the Bible with ease at the age of four. He went on to devote fourteen hours a day to study, a practice (with the residual effects of small pox)  that may have permanently damaged his eyesight. He was forced in later life to dictate his writings to a secretary. Before becoming president of Yale in 1795, Timothy Dwight had been an army chaplain, farmer, teacher, legislator, author, and pastor. On his deathbed, when some Bible promises were being read to him, he exclaimed, “Oh what triumphant truths!”

This hymn was inspired by Psalm 137 which describes the passionate love of the Jews for their homeland, during their years in captivity in Babylon (cf. Ps. 137:1, 5). There is, however, an implication in the opening stanza which is not precisely biblical. It is implied that the kingdom of God and the church of Jesus Christ are one and the same thing.

CH-1) I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.

A moment’s reflection will show that the kingdom of God predated the birth of the church on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. In fact, it gets a little more complicated than that. The term can be used in several ways.

¤ The Universal Kingdom of God is a term we could use for God’s sovereignty over all, for time and eternity. He rules over all the universe and the natural world, over demons and holy angels, over saved and unsaved human beings. There is nothing that does not fall under this sovereign rule, including the church–but that does not make the two identical.

¤ The Spiritual Kingdom of God is entered by faith, and through the new birth (Col. 1:13). Lost sinners are not members of His kingdom when the word is used in this sense. Today, all born again members of the body of Christ belong to the spiritual kingdom, but again, that doesn’t make these two identical. Saying I am a citizen of Canada and a citizen of Saskatchewan doesn’t make those two the same thing. The greater encompasses the lesser.

¤ The Mediatorial or Theocratic Kingdom describes God’s rule over the earth through a human representative, or mediator, beginning with Adam (who failed in his responsibilities). This rule will not reach its full scope until Christ, the God-Man, returns again to reign in the Millennium.

¤ The Kingdom of Heaven. This describes the nature of heaven’s (God’s) rule during the absence of the King (the Lord Jesus Christ). It is called a “mystery” (Matt. 13:11) in the sense that the Lord Jesus revealed something unforeseen in Old Testament prophecy, a gap (of 2,000 years now) between the first and second comings of Christ. As the parable of the Tares among the Wheat (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) and the parable of the Dragnet (Matt. 13:47-51) show, the kingdom of heaven includes both truly saved individuals and mere professers.  Sometimes the name “Christendom” is used for this. It is possible for professing Christians (who aren’t born again) to be members of churches, but they cannot be counted as belonging to the spiritual body of Christ.

I’ve taken some time to summarize this in order to show that in no sense can the church and the kingdom of God be considered absolutely identical. The hymn does make sense if we take the word kingdom to be used in an general way, and the church as being currently a part of this. The remainder of the hymn is a strong declaration of loyalty to the body of Christ.

CH-5) For her my tears shall fall
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

CH-6) Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

1) What is there about the current state of the church that causes you grief or tears (CH-5)?

2) What are some of the “heavenly ways” of the church (CH-6), that give us a foretaste of heaven?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Brother, I read more than I comment, and am so thankful for your posts. Truly edifying to know the story behind the great songs of the faith. Thank you for all that you do.


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