“A Joyful Song”

"Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness" (Ps. 150.2)

      INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to praise God for His mighty acts and His excellent greatness is "A Joyful Song." The text was written by Ambrose Nichols Blatchford, who was born on Dec. 11, 1842, at Plymouth, England. After receiving his BA degree from London University, he studied for the Unitarian ministry at Manchester New College, in London. In 1866, he became assistant to William James, minister of Lewin’s Mead Meeting in Bristol, and upon James’s death became sole minister there. Most of his hymns, including this one, were produced in 1876 for the Sunday school anniversary services at Lewin’s Mead Meeting, printed on fly leaves, and adapted to existing melodies.
     Originally published as "A Gladsome Hymn of Praise We Sing," this song’s first hymnbook appearance was in W. R. Stevenson’s School Hymnal of 1880 and set to an anonymous tune called "Canaan" with which it is found in The Mennonite Hymnal of 1969. All of Blatchford’s 56 hymns were collected in his 1897 Songs of Praise for School and Church. The only other hymns by Blatchford that I have ever seen in any hymnbooks are are "Softly the Silent Night" from 1875 and "Peacefully Round Us the Shadows Are Falling" from 1878, although Cyberhymnal.org lists a total of eight. He died on Apr. 24, 1924, at Bideford in North Devon, England.

     The only hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century to include "A Joyful Song" was the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson, where it is found at #1 in four stanzas. The change from "gladsome hymn" to "joyful song" may have been made by Jorgenson. The tune used in Great Songs was composed by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896). It may have been done specifically for Blatchford’s words. A well-known nineteenth-century English church musician who is credited with 246 hymn tunes and edited five hymnbooks, Barnby provided tunes for such beloved favorites as "Hail, Gladdening Light," "Now the Day Is Over," "O Perfect Love," and "When Morning Guilds the Skies."

     "A Joyful Song" is filled with exortation to praise the Lord.

I. Stanza one suggests that we should praise Him with thanksgiving
"A joyful song of praise we sing, And thankfully we gather
To bless the love of God above, Our everlasting Father."
 A. Because of all that God has done for us, He deserves our thanks: Ps. 95.1-2
 B. Thus, we should bless Him for every manifestation of His love toward us: Eph. 2.4
 C. He is worthy of such gladsome hymns of praise as our everlasting Father: Matt. 6.9

II. Stanza two suggests for what we should praise Him with thanksgiving
"From shades of night He calls the light, And from the sod the flower;
From every cloud His blessings break In sunshine or in shower."
 A. Out of darkness, He said "let there be light": Gen. 1.1-5
 B. Also, He created the flowers and the plants upon the earth: Gen. 1.11-13
 C. Furthermore, He sustains life by sending the sunshine and the showers: Acts 14.15-17

III. Stanza three suggests who should praise Him with thanksgiving
"Full in His sight His children stand, By His strong arm defended,
And He whose wisdom guides the world, Our footsteps hath attended."
 A. Everyone should praise God, but His children have special reason to bless Him: 1 Jn. 3.1
 B. He has defended His children by His strong arm: Ps. 5.11
 C. And He has promised to guide their footsteps with His wisdom: Ps. 32.8

IV. Stanza four suggests why we should praise Him with thanksgiving
For nothing falls unknown to Him, Or care or joy or sorrow;
And He whose mercy ruled the past Will be our stay tomorrow."
 A. Nothing falls unknown to Him because all things are open before Him: Heb. 4.13
 B. He knows all our sorrows, so that we may cast all our cares upon Him: 1 Pet. 5.7
 C. Therefore, we do not have to worry about tomorrow because He will take care of it: Matt. 6.45

V. Stanza five suggests that we should give Him glory in praising Him with thanksgiving
"Then praise the Lord with one accord, To His great name give glory;
And of His never changing love Repeat the wondrous story."
 A. Because of who He is and what He has done, God alone is worthy of glory: Ps. 115.1
 B. He has manifested to us His never changing love: Rom. 8.35-39
 C. Thus, we should repeat the wondrous story of His message to mankind: Col. 1.27-28

     CONCL.: The chorus, which may have originally been intended as another stanza, continues to admonish us to express our praise to God.
"In Him rejoice with heart and voice Whose glory fadeth never,
Whose providence is our defense, Who loves and loves forever."
This hymn is probably not very well known among us. I have no idea whether it was sung very often even in those congregations which used Great Songs of the Church No. 2 when it was an extremely popular songbook. But it is a good song. There are many scriptural subjects which we can address as we teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but sometimes it is uplifting simply to sing "A Joyful Song."


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