“Let Us with a Gladsome Mind”

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psa. 136.1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which is a metrical version of Psalm 136 is usually known by its first line, "Let Us With A Gladsome Mind" (simply called "Psalm 136" in Hymns for Worship Revised at #507). The text was written by John Milton, who was born at Cheapside, London, England, on Dec. 9, 1608, the son of John Milton who was an English scrivener (a public clerk or copyist) and amateur musician. His grandfather had converted from Catholicism to Protestantism, and his father had been disinherited during Elizabeth’s reign for reading the Bible. The singing of metrical psalms from the Old Testament was the almost universal expression of music in worship for English speaking churches from around 1550 to nearly 1700.  However, some began to feel that the current Psalters had departed too much from the sense of the Hebrew text, while others believed that David’s Psalms were too remote from the inner life of a truly religious Christian. So the Anglican Church began turning gradually to the use of hymns of "human composure," and even among the Puritans many of the Psalm versions took on a decidedly more literary nature. Milton, who became one of the finest representatives of this more liberal aspect of seventeenth-century Puritanism, was educated at St. Paul’s School in London, founded in 1512 and known as a font of "liberalism."

      In the winter of 1623-1624, while living at his father’s house on Bread St. in London and learning his lessons at St. Paul’s School, the fifteen-year-old student produced this free rendering of Psa. 136 in 24 two-line stanzas, evidently for his own delight or for that of his father and teachers. It was natural, considering his Puritan heritage, that he would turn to the Bible for his inspiration. The fact that he chose a Psalm to paraphrase shows the the Psalms were still the chief outlet for singing praise to God in his day. Young Milton, the lyric poet, was just imitating his elders, but many feel that he did a better job than they did. The poem was not published until 1645 in his Poems, Both English and Latin. Milton went on at age sixteen to enter Christ College at Cambridge, which was also looked upon as the "liberal" university of its day. After receiving his master’s degree from there ar age 24, he engaged in full-time personal study while he lived with his parents ar Horton for six years, from 1632 to 1638, and then travelled throughout Europe, meeting and conversing with eminent men of letters in France and Italy from 1638 to 1639. Learning of revolutionary rumblings in his homeland, he returned to England, settled in Aldersgate, and opened a school for a few years.

     In 1643 Milton married Mary Powell who bore him his children. She died in 1653, and in that year he became totally blind. Subsequently he married Katherine Woodcock and, after her death, Elizabeth Minshull.  During the years of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, from 1649 to 1659 he served as secretary of foreign affairs to the Commonwealth Council of State until the return of the monarchy. His fame rests upon his public writings in prose during the days of the Commonwealth, in which he sought to justify Puritanism, and most of all the great English epic poems during the latter part of his life , and well-known author of such works as Paradise Lost in 1667 and Paradise Regained in 1671. He died at Artillery Walk in St. Giles, England, on Nov. 8, 1674. The poem was never used as a hymn until 1855, when it was included in the Congregationalist Hymn Book, although it had to be polished up and made to read suitably for a hymn. Most books published by brethren through the years which have included this hymn used a tune (Innocents) of unknown origin, sometimes attributed to George Frederick Handel, and arranged in 1850 for The Parish Choir by William Henry Monk.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann with a tune (Monkland) by John Antes and arranged by John B. Wilkes; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition except words only) which uses a tune (Albertson) that was composed by Phoebe Palmer Knapp and is most commonly associated with the hymn, "When My Love For Christ Grows Weak," and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     This hymn is an excellent expression of praise to God Almighty.

I. Stanza 1 says that we should praise God for His goodness
"Let us with a gladsome mind Praise the Lord for He is kind;
For His mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure."
 A. Everything that God has made and done is both good and for our good: Gen. 1:31, Deut. 6:24
 B. God’s people have always praised Him for His goodness: 1 Ki. 8:66
 C. The fact is that everything that is good for us is from God: Jas. 1:17

II. Stanza 2 says that we should praise God for His deity
"Let us sound His Name abroad, For of gods He is the God;
For His mercies aye endure, Every faithful, ever sure."
 A. There is only one God: Deut. 6:4-5
 B. While there are others called gods, the one true God is greter than all others who are acknowledged as gods: 2 Chron. 2:5
 C. Thus, we praise Him simply because He is God, the only divine being: Rom. 1:20

III. Stanza 3 (originally #7) says that we should praise God for His creation
"He with all-commanding might Filled the new-made world with light;
For His mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure."
 A. God is the Creator of the entire universe: Gen. 1:1-3
 B. He also made mankind: Gen. 1:26-27, 2:7; Matt. 19:4
 C. Of course, no one was present to see the cration, nor was there anyone to chronicle it, but we accept it as the truth by faith in God’s own revealed record of it: Heb. 11:3-6

IV. Stanza 4 (originally #8) says that we should praise God for His power
"He the golden-tressed sun Caused all day his course to run;
For His mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure."
 A. By His power, God made the sun and the other heavenly bodies: Gen. 1.14-18
 B. It is also God’s power that keeps the sun moving, to give both heat and light for the earth as the evidence of the glory of God: Ps. 19:1-6
 C. Thus, the movement of the sun is a token of the power of God through Christ to sustain the universe: Col. 1:16-17, Heb. 1:1-3

V. Stanza 5 (originally #22) says that we should praise God for His providence
"All things living He doth feed, His full hand supplies our need;
For His mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure."
 A. God created all things living, both animals and man: Gen. 1.20-27
 B. Not only did He create all things, but His creation "He doth feed" and His hand supplies our every need: Acts 14.14-17
 C. Hence, we should be thankful to God because our very being is dependent upon His providence: Acts 17:24-28

VI. Stanza 6 (originally #24) says that we should praise God because of His mercy
"Let us, then, with gladsome mind, Praise the Lord for He is kind;
For His mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure."
 A. God’s kindness extends beyond providing the physical needs of mankind to making salvation possible through grace: Titus 3.4-5
 B. Thus, for sinful mankind, He is a God of mercy which takes those who are dead in trespassses and makes them alive: Eph. 2.4-10
 C. And this mercy, ever faithful, ever sure, will endure for all eternity because it makes possible for us the hope of eternal life in heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5

     CONCL.: The singing of Psalms is not as "fashionable" as it was back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Of course, if we were to sing nothing but paraphrases of the Psalms, we would lose many of the great hymns of faith that we have known and loved through the years.  However, at the same time, we could do a lot worse than to use the inspired words of the Bible itself in our worship to God. And, sadly sometimes, it is probably true that we actually do worse in our attempts to praise our Creator. By using more of the Psalms we might recapture some of the reverence and devotion that seem lacking in much of our singing today. As we sing, may we think, "Let Us With A Gladsome Mind."


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