“Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him”

"Praise ye the Lord…Praise ye Him, all His angels" (Ps. 148.1-2)

     INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to worship Jehovah as God is "Praise The Lord" (#21 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #69 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text is often attributed to John Kempthorne, who was born at Plymouth, England, on June 24, 1775, the son of Admiral Kempthorne, and was educated at St. John’s, Cambridge, where he received the B. A. in 1796 and subsequently became a fellow. This hymn first appeared as one of five printed in a four-page tract, entitled For Foundling Apprentices Attending Divine Service to Return Thanks, which was in turn pasted at the end of a book called Psalms, Hymns, and Anthems of the Foundling Hospital, published in London, England. It is found in both the music edition of 1796 and the words only edition of 1801, but is believed to have most likely been written in or after 1801 and pasted in both editions at the same time. The Foundling Hospital, a London orphanage for deserted children, was established in 1739 by an English merchant sea-captain named Thomas Coram (1668-1751).

     For a time, Coram was a ship-builder in Tauton, MS, but returned to England in 1703 to become a promoter of colonies in Georgia and Nova Scotia, devoting his latter years to charitable enterprises like the Foundling Hospital. One Sunday morning, on his way to the church service at St. Andrew’s in Holborn, he found an abandoned baby on the steps of the church building and was moved to found an institution to care for the many illegitimate children in the city who suffered a similar fate. So the hospital was built in High Holborn and had its own chapel, finished in 1750, where musical concerts were often given. Hymn-singing by the inmates of charitable institutions was a well-established practice in the late eighteenth century. Such concerts, given as benefits for the orphanage, contributed greatly to its financial support over a period of many years, and it was quite a fashionable thing for Londoners to visit there, especially on Sundays.

     The authorship of "Praise the Lord" is uncertain. Some sources indicate that Kempthorne served as the editor of the Foundling Hospital collection of hymns, and Daniel Sedgewick ascribed some of the songs in the tract to Kempthorne. However, John Julian wrote,"These hymns, however, are not by Kempthorne, but were taken by him for his collection from the Foundling Hospital [from another hymnbook]…and there is no evidence whatever that he had anything to do with that hymn-book." Kempthorne published his own Select Portions of Psalms from Various Translations, and Hymns, from Various Authors in 1810, some by him and some from other sources, without indicating which were his own until the 1813 second edition; he never did claim "Praise the Lord" and his son affirmed that it was not written by his father. After receiving his B. D. in 1807 from Cambridge, Kempthorne became an Anglican minister, serving at Northleach in Gloucestershire beginning in 1816, Lichfield Cathedral in 1826, Wedmore in Somersetshire in 1827, and St. Michaels in Glouster after that, where he died on Nov. 6, 1838.
     The text has been set to several melodies. The tune (Perez) used in most of our books was composed in 1841 by American hymn-composer Lowell Mason (1792-1872). 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 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann (with both the Mason and another tune); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
     The song expresses praise to God for His wonderful works of creation and salvation.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that the angels and the heavenly bodies praise the Lord (vs. 3-5)
"Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him! Praise Him, angels, in the height.
Sun and moon rejoice before Him; Praise Him, all ye stars of light."
 A. The heavens adore Him by declaring the glory of God: Ps. 19.1
 B. Certainly the angels of heaven are pictured as praising the Lord: Rev. 5.11-12
 C. The sun, moon, and stars join this praise because by their very existence they point to their Creator: Gen. 1.16

II. Stanza 2 tells us that we should praise God because He has spoken (vs. 5-6)
"Praise the Lord, for He hath spoken; Worlds His mighty voice obeyed.
Laws which never shall be broken, For their guidance He has made."
 A. It was by speaking that God created the heavens and the earth: Gen. 1.1-3
 B. The worlds that came into existence did so because they were obeying His mighty voice: Ps. 33.6-9
 C. The same God who speaks to us today through His Son, also spoke those laws by which the Son upholds all things by the word of His power: Heb. 1.1-3

III. Stanza 3 tells us that we should praise God because He is glorious (v. 13)
"Praise the Lord, for He is glorious; Never shall His promise fail.
God hath made His saints victorious; Sin and death shall not prevail."
 A. We should make His praise glorious because his very name is glorious: Ps. 66.1-2, 72.18-19
 B. One aspect of His glory is that the promises that He makes will never fail: Heb. 6.13-15
 C. And a promise that God has made to His saints is that they will be victorious: 1 Cor. 15.57, 1 Jn. 5.4

IV. Stanza 4 tells us that we should praise God because of His salvation (v. 14)
"Praise the God of our salvation; Hosts on high, His power proclaim.
Heaven and earth and all creation, Laud and magnify His name."
 A. The Bible declares that God is our Savior because He is the one who planned the means for our salvation: 1 Tim. 2.3-4
 B. Therefore, hosts on high should proclaim His power: Ps. 21.13
 C. And all the creation of both heaven and earth should laud and magnify His name: Ps. 86.9, 12

     CONCL.: Originally in two eight-line stanzas, with Mason’s tune the song appears in four four-line stanzas with the refrain which simply concludes, "Hallelujah! Amen, Hallelujah! Amen.  Amen." After mentioning God’s wonderful works of creation, the laws by which He governs them, His promises to man of victory over sin and death, and His great salvation, there is really not much left to say. Hearts that truly love the Lord will surely be encouraged when they "Praise the Lord."


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