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Words: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Germany, by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)
Note: This hymn was published posthumously, in 1755. Hymnary.org has an early version of it, published in 1789.
In spite of our many modern conveniences, it’s still possible to get in difficulty while driving. Perhaps we hit a deer on a lonely road, and the car can’t be driven. We belong to an auto club that promised to give us a tow. But when we try to use our cell phone to call for help, we discover we’re in a spot where the phone won’t work. The only solution seems to be a long wait–or a long walk!
That’s just one example of the difficulties and problems that can arise, not only in travel, but all through the journey of life. For some things there seems to be a ready remedy, but what about the rest? Even here believers can look to the Lord with confidence. No testing or trial entering our lives is beyond His infinite wisdom and power.
There’s an insurance company whose slogan used to tell those who purchased a policy that they were “in good hands.” Far more fully and reliably is that true of all who put themselves in God’s hands. In every circumstance of life, from the womb to the tomb–and for eternity beyond, God’s loving care is abundantly sufficient. As David says in Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (vs. 6).
In the words of another psalm, “You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory….My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” Ps. 73:24, 26). All our days, and forever. “The mercy of the Lord [His loving kindness] is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear [reverence] Him” (Ps. 103:17).
One reason behind this perpetual attention given to the child of God is that He is committed to completing the work He’s begun in us. The Lord said to Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Gen. 28:15). David declares, “The Lord will perfect [bring to completion] that which concerns me” (Ps. 138:8). The Bible assures us we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Philip Doddridge knew about that. He lived in England three centuries ago, back when life tended to be short, and infant mortality was extremely high. Philip was one of a family of twenty children, of whom all but two died in infancy. Little Philip also was thought to be stillborn. The pathetic little mite was set to one side to be buried later. But one of those assisting with the birth thought she saw a feeble sign of life, and she began to work on the baby.
With her aid, he lived, though, as you can see from the dates above, he died before his fiftieth birthday. Even so, he packed those years the Lord gave him with dynamic Christian service. Doddridge became a pastor, and a seminary professor of recognized scholarship. He authored theological texts, and wrote hundreds of hymns, including O Happy Day.
Another of his hymns–lesser known perhaps–expresses his confidence in the loving care of the Lord all through the journey of life. It is a song Doddridge wrote specifically as a reassurance for the coming new year, heading it with the text Acts 26:22, which says, “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand.”
CH-1) Great God, we sing that mighty hand
By which supported, still we stand;
The opening year Thy mercy shows,
That mercy crowns it till its close.
CH-2) By day, by night, at home, abroad,
Still are we guarded by our God,
By His incessant bounty fed,
By His unerring counsel led.
Nor does the Lord’s tender care cease in heaven. “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17). Amen to that!
CH-4) In scenes exalted or depressed,
Thou art our joy, and Thou our rest;
Thy goodness all our hopes shall raise,
Adored through all our changing days.
CH-5) When death shall interrupt these songs,
And seal in silence mortal tongues,
Our helper God, in whom we trust,
In better worlds our souls shall boast.
1) Looking back, what blessings of God have you enjoyed during the past year?
2) Looking ahead, what challenges (that are known) will you face in the new year?