Posted by: rcottrill | June 20, 2018

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Ellacombe, by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1718, Watts published a book called Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children. One of those songs is still in use, and it’s startling to realize the level of understanding Dr. Watts expected in the young. In the book’s Preface he writes:

“[These songs] will be a constant furniture of the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves. This may sometimes give their thoughts a divine turn, and raise a young meditation. Thus they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind, out of the loose and dangerous sonnets [could we substitute “contemporary secular entertainment?”] of the age.”

Justly or not, modern education has its share of critics. We are equipping schools with amazing technology unavailable to earlier generations, yet parents and grandparents sometimes wonder if there’s a matching advance in the quality of education. Some schools are rising to the challenge and doing well. Others not. Several observations believe are pertinent.

1) Getting an education involves more that simply absorbing facts. The nurture of curiosity and creativity may suffer in strongly fact-centred education systems. But it’s not wise to swing the pendulum violently in the opposite direction and minimize factual knowledge and basic skills (English and Mathematics). Teaching at the college level two decades ago I was sometimes frustrated by the inability of students to express themselves in clear organized English in assigned papers.

2) Likewise it’s a problem if the focus is simply to equip students to pass standard tests. (I’ve seen that happen at the college level too.) To attract new students, get funding, and so on, a school may feel the need to contrive that a certain percentage of learners show a laudable level of competency. But at what cost to scholastic integrity? And when that becomes the goal, pupils can become mere statistics.

3) Finally, schools do not operate in isolation from other spheres of influence. What’s happening in the home? What values are being inculcated there? And what role does the church play in establishing the student’s values? Public education sometimes tries to proclaim all views to be equally valid. But Christians cannot accept that, because God’s Word does not. Many are opting to send their children to private Christian schools as a result.

Concerning childhood education, the Word of God says it’s a parental responsibility to teach children the Scriptures. The church can certainly have a part in that, but it begins at home.

“These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-7; cf. Ps. 78:1-8).

To the extent they accurately reflect what the Bible has to say, the great hymns of the church are a useful tool in this. Whether in the family circle, or the house of God, we are admonished:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

Pastor and hymn writer Isaac Watts certainly thought so. A song that remains in use from Watts’s book begins:

CH-1) I sing the mighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command,
And all the stars obey.

The original hymn consisted of eight four-line stanzas. By combining the stanzas two-by-two, they become eight lines each, and fit the above tune. However, there are a couple of things to note here. In the earliest copy I could find, from 1802, the second half of the third eight-line stanza is quite different from what is in most books today. And the final eight-line stanza is rarely if ever used. (See below.)

5) There’s not a plant or flow’r below,
But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise and tempests blow,
By order from Thy throne.
6) Creatures (as numerous as they be)
Are subject to Thy care;
There’s not a place where we can flee,
But God is present there.

7) In heav’n He shines with beams of love!
With wrath in hell beneath!
‘Tis on His earth I stand or move
And ‘tis His air I breathe.
8) His hand is my perpetual guard,
He keeps me with His eye;
Why should I then forget the Lord,
Who is forever nigh?

Scanning the entire hymn we see nearly a dozen major truths presented about God, especially in nature (cf. Rom. 1:18-22). (Numbers indicate the stanzas.) His: Creative power (1); Wisdom (2); Sovereign authority (2, 5, 7); Goodness (3); Wonders (4); Glory (5); Omnipresence (6, 8); Love (7); Wrath (8); Protection (8).

These are important truths that we can begin to teach the young, a foundation for faith and moral training to build on.

Questions:
1) If you were asked to make a list of Bible truths young children (around ages six to eight) should learn, what would you include?

2) How is your church doing in teaching the young these things?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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