Posted by: rcottrill | June 26, 2013

Let All the World in Every Corner Sing

Words: George Herbert (b. Apr. 3, 1593; d. Mar. 1, 1632)
Music: Universal Praise, by Walter Grenville Whinfield (b. Nov. 6, 1865; d. Apr. 19, 1919)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Wordwise Hymns page links to a choral rendering of this hymn by the Dorian Festival Chorus (of what looks like about 800 or more voices. Glorious! Do turn up your computer speakers and take a moment to listen to it. (Better still, if you have a good set of headphones, use those.) The Wordwise page will also give you some biographical information on Pastor George Herbert.

The Cyber Hymnal includes a note from George Herbert that shows the humility of the man. Shortly before he died, Herbert gave the manuscript for a book of his hymns (including the present one) called The Temple. Of this volume he said:

Sir, I pray deliver this little book to my brother [Nicholas] Ferrar, and tell him that he shall find in it a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master, in whose service I have now found perfect freedom. Desire him to read it, and then, if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul, let it be made public; if not let him burn it, for I and it are less than the least of God’s mercies.

As to the tune, several have been used, though the Cyber Hymnal gives only the one by Whinfield. I’m more familiar with the joyful tune appropriately called All the World. It was written by hymn historian Robert Guy McCutchan. However, he submitted the tune anonymously, and when pressed to identify the author said it was by John Porter–a name he made up on the spur of the moment!

Considering that it’s so short, perhaps this hymn would be thought of today as a worship chorus. Be that as it may, the song, now nearly four centuries old, is a crisp and clarion call to praise the Lord.

George Herbert frequently referred to the Lord as his “God and King.” And that appellation, or close to it, is found many times in the book of Psalms (Ps. 5:2; 44:4; 68:24; 74:12; 84:3; 95:3; 145:1). There we are called to “ Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” (Ps. 47:6). And, as the praising of God is to employ those who are on earth, so there’s a call for saints and angels to do so in heaven, where: “A voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’” (Rev. 19:5).

CH-1) Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!
The heavens are not too high, His praise may thither fly,
The earth is not too low, His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

In CH-2 George Herbert refers to the church’s “shout.” The Hebrew word ranan is sometimes translated that way. It refers to a joyful shout or song of thanksgiving and praise. As he prayed for God’s cleansing and forgiveness, after his great sin, David declared:

“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud [ranan] of Your righteousness” (Ps. 51:14).

Some other examples: “Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy [ranan]” (Ps. 5:11). “We will rejoice [ranan] in Your salvation” (Ps. 20:5). “Rejoice [ranan] in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful” (Ps. 33:1). “My lips shall greatly rejoice [ranan] when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed” (Ps. 71:23).

As music and singing is so often associated with this expression, I don’t think the usage suggests a kind of irreverent, rowdy, and discordant shouting. Rather, it has the connotation of an overflow of joyful enthusiasm, whether in the spoken exclamations of God’s people (“Praise the Lord!”), or in their singing.

CH-2) Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!
The church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out;
But, above all, the heart must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

Though we can participate in the praising of our God and King today, universal praise to “the four corners of the earth” awaits the return of Christ to reign over all (Isa. 11:10, 12; cf. Ps. 22:27; Hab. 2:14). What a day that will be! (cf. Ps. 72:19).

And one more thought with regard to the third line of CH-2, that “above all, the heart must bear the longest part.” It’s meaning can be traced to some lines in another of Herbert’s hymns. In King of Glory, King of Peace he says:

Seven whole days, not one is seven,
I will praise Thee;
In my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise Thee.

The author is saying that, yes, it’s important to gather with God’s people on the Lord’s day, and lift our voices in joyful songs of worship and praise. But our praise of God should be a daily thing, all through the week. Even when it’s not audible to others, we can praise Him with a joyful heart.

1) For what are you praising the Lord in your heart today?

2) If the praises of God in your church are lack-luster and formal, what can be done to encourage something more joyful and enthusiastic?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Thank you, Mr. Cottrill. May I share this essay on Herbert with my church choir?
    Jennifer Whiting

    • Absolutely. Glad I could be of help. But if you could mention my blog to the choir, I’d appreciate it. The way it gets known and used is by folks sharing when it’s been a help and a blessing.


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