“I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord”

"I WILL SING OF THE MERCIES OF THE LORD"
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever" (Ps. 89.1)

     INTRO.: A song which exhorts us to remember the mercies of the Lord and to sing praises to Him for them is "I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord" (#660 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text is a paraphrase of Ps. 89.1-13. The original text of stanza 1, based on Ps. 89.1, and the tune (Mercies) are most often attributed to James Henry Fillmore (1849-1936). They probably were taken from one of the cantatas, published by the Fillmore Brothers in the early twentieth century, which he composed, although I have not been able to find a date for it.  However, Fillmore did not usually provide words for his music. For most of his cantatas, he used texts by Jessie H. Brown Pounds (1861-1921).  Thus, it is at least possible that she may have produced the initial adaptation of Ps. 89.1. The original text of stanza 2, based Ps. 89.5 and 8, was written by Marie J. Post (b. 1919). Again, I have been able to find no date for it and no information about her. The text of stanza 3, based on Ps. 89.11-13, and some changes in stanzas 1 and 2, were all adapted and arranged by this writer.

     The source of the song was apparently unknown when, as the 1978 Dictionary-Handbook to Hymns for the Living Church noted, "The music from the pen of an unknown composer appeared in United States’ youth groups about 1960" (p. 38). One of the first modern arrangements to appear was released in the 1960 Let’s Sing published by the Hope Publishing Co. and was made by Donald Paul Hustad who was born on Oct. 2, 1918, near Echo in Yellow Medicine County, MN. After losing his father at age one in a hunting accident, he grew up with his mother and brother at Boone Biblical College in Boone, IA, and continued his education at John Fletcher College and Northwestern University, from which he received the D. Mus. degree in church music. Having served as professor of music at several colleges, including Moody Bible Institute and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has been an associate with Billy Graham in crusades on five continents and an editor with the Hope Publishing Company of Carol Stream, IL, for whom he has compiled a number of hymnbooks, including Hymns for the Living Church in 1974. In addition, he has been active as a composer, organ recitalist, radio and recording artist, music clinician, lecturer, writer, and author.

     In my songbook collection, the hymn, usually with the original stanza 1, is found in the 1972 Living Hymns edited by Alfred B. Smith with a 1961 arrangement by John W. Peterson; the 1972 Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns edited by Bill Harvey in an arrangement by Frank P. Nickel; the 1972 Christian Hymnary edited by John J. Overholt where it is identified as anonymous; the 1974 Hymns for the Living Church edited by Hustad; the 1976 New Church Hymnal edited by Ralph Carmichael with a 1976 arrangement copyright by Lexicon Music and probably made by Carmichael; the 1987 Worship His Majesty edited by Fred Bock in a 1986 arrangement copyrighted by Word Music possibly made by Bock or perhaps by Lee Herrington; the 1989 Worship the Lord Hymnal of the Church of God edited by Lloyd A. Larson; the 1993 Sing to the Lord edited by Ken Bible with a 1977 arrangement by David Cole; the 1995 Rejoice! Hymnal edited by Vernon M. Whaley; the 1997 Celebration Hymnal edited by Tom Fettke with a 1986 arrangement by Lee Herrington; the 1997 Majesty Hymns edited by Frank Garlock; and the 2001 Worship and Rejoice edited by Scott A. Shorney with the stanza 2 by Marie J. Post.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it may be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).

I. Stanza 1 (based on v. 1 of Ps. 89) encourages each one to sing to the Lord
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing, I will sing;
I will tell of His favor and His lovingkindness, I will speak of the goodness of my King.
With my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness,
With my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations."
 A. The "mercies" of the Lord refer to all His acts of kindness toward mankind: Ps. 119.156
 B. The favor, lovingkindness, and goodness of God are great: Ps. 31.19
 C. Therefore, we should make known His faithfulness with our mouths: Ps. 51.15

II. Stanza 2 (based on vs. 5-8 of Ps. 89) encourages the angels to sing to the Lord
"All the hosts of the angels sing God’s praise forever For He’s always the same.
All the wonders of heaven will declare His glory, All the sons of the mighty fear His name.
Who can be compared to God In faithfulness, in faithfulness?
Who can be compared to God In faithfulness to all generations?"
 A. All the hosts of the angels bless the Lord: Ps. 103.20-21
 B. Every being in the heavens praise the Lord: Ps. 148.1-4
 C. Because of His faithfulness, there is no one who can be compared to God: Ps. 86.8

III. Stanza 3 (based on vs. 11-13 of Ps. 89) encourages the heavens and earth to sing to the Lord
"Oh, the heavens exalt the grace of God forever, So His praise shall be heard;
And the earth should extol His name in adoration For His strong hand upholds it by His word.
North and south He did create By faithfulness, by faithfulness,
North and south He did create By faithfulness to all generations."
 A. Even the physical heavens with the sun, moon, and stars, declare the glory of God: Ps. 19.1-4
 B. All the earth should worship the Lord and sing praises to His name: Ps. 66.4
 C. The reason is that He created everything on earth from north to south: Ps. 33.6-9

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the basic thought of the song.
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing, I will sing;
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord."
God has done so much for everything in the universe, making the sun, moon, and stars, creating the earth and all the works in it, and extending His goodness and favor to mankind. Therefore, as I consider all of these wonderful blessings, "I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord."

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