“Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee”

"And all the angels stood round about the throne….Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God…" (Rev. 7.11-12)

     INTRO.: A song which points out that one aspect of our worship is to praise God is "Might God, While Angles Bless Thee." The text was written by Robert Robinson (1735-1790). Robertson is perhaps best known for his hymn "O (Come) Thou Fount of Every Blessing." Around 1774, after holding a young boy on his lap, he penned a poem beginning, "Mighty God, while angels bless Thee, May an infant lisp Thy name." When he had completed it, he read it to the child and playfully put it into his hand. Originally in nine four-line stanzas with the refrain, "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, amen," it usually appears with one stanza and the refrain omitted and the other eight stanzas combined into four eight-line stanzas. The hymn was not published until after Robinson’s death in J. Middleton’s 1793 Hymns. In the opening lines, "infant" has been changed to "mortal" and "lisp" to "sing."

     The tune (Autumn, Constancy, Erith, Janes, Jaynes, Madrid, Mant, Sabbath, or Sardius) usually used with this hymn has been attributed to Louis von Esch, c. 1810. However, it is now believed to have been composed by Francois Hipployte Barthelemon, who was born on July 27, 1741, at Bordeaux, France. The son of a wig-maker who was also an official in the Colonial Department of the French government and a mother who was from a wealthy Queen’s County, Ireland, family, he started out as an army officer in the Irish brigade but left the service to study music in England and went on to become one of the most eminent professional violinists of his day. Serving as an operatic conductor at Marylebone and Vauxhall gardens, he married a talented singer, Mary Young, a niece of the wife of famous composer Thomas Arne, and during 1776 and 1777 they toured Germany, Italy, and France. In the 1790’s, he enjoyed the friendship of Joseph Haydn during the Austrian composer’s visits to London.

     Around 1795 or 1796, this melody with harp accompaniment, ascribed to F. H. Barthelemon, was published with words taken from "The Monk" by Matthew Gregory Lewis. Perhaps Esch harmonized it. During his lifetime, Barthelemon produced five operas, six symphonies, several concertos, and some violin sonatas. A member of the Swedenborgian Church, he experienced ill health and misfortune in his last years and died a brokenhearted paralytic in London, England, on July 23, 1808. The usual arrangement of the tune was made by George Frederick Root (1820-1895).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text appeared with a tune (Holy Voices) by G. J. Geer in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson. The tune appeared with a text "Hark! The Voice of Jesus Calling" by Daniel March in the original 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; it appeared with a text "Know, My Soul, Thy Full Salvation" by Henry F. Lyte in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 also edited by Jorgenson.

     The song expresses praise to God because He is the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 praises God as the Ancient of Days
"Might God, while angels bless Thee, May a mortal sing Thy name?
Lord of men as well as angels, Thou art every creature’s theme.
Lord of every land and nation, Ancient of eternal days,
Sounded through the wide creation Be Thy just and endless praise."
 A. The angels of heaven bless God: Ps. 103.20-21
 B. Because He is Lord of men as well as angels, we mortals also sing to His name: Col. 3.16
 C. The reason that both angels and men praise God is that He is the Ancient of Days: Dan. 7. 13

II. Stanza 2 praises God as the Creator
"For the grandeur of Thy nature, Grand beyond a seraph’s thought;
For the wonders of creation, Works with skill and kindness wrought;
For Thy providence that governs, Through Thine empire’s wide domain,
Wings an angel, guides a sparrow, Blessed by Thy gentle reign."
 A. As the Creator, God’s nature is grander than even a seraph’s thought so that the seraphs stand above His throne to serve Him: Isa. 6.1-2
 B. This Creator’s wonders are works with skill and kindness wrought that declare His glory: Ps. 19.1
 C. The same divine power by which He created the world also governs the world through His providence so that He knows when even a sparrow falls and thus cares for us as well: Matt. 10.28-31

III. Stanza 3 praises God as the Redeemer
"For Thy rich, Thy free redemption, Bright, though veiled in darkness long,
Thought is poor, and poor expression; Who can sing that wondrous song?
Brightness of the Father’s glory, Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?
Break, my tongue, such guilty silence! Sing the Lord who came to die!"
 A. It is God who has made our redemption possible by His wonderful grace: Ps. 111.9
 B. Therefore, we should call Him blessed because of His redemption: Eph. 1.3-7
 C. The means by which He provided this redemption was the one who is the brightness of His glory: Heb. 1.1-3

IV. Stanza 4 praises God as the Son who died for us
"From the highest throne of glory To the cross of deepest woe,
All to ransom guilty captives, Flow my praise, forever flow!
Reascend, immortal Savior, Leave Thy footstool, take Thy throne;
Thence return, and reign forever, Be the kingdom all Thine own!"
 A. The Son dwelt on the highest throne of glory in heaven with the Father: Jn. 1.1
 B. Yet, He left to come and experience the cross of deepest woe: Phil. 2.5-8
 C. The songwriter then pictures His ascension into heaven ("reascend" here means "go back up" to the place from which He had come) and looks forward to His return to reign forever; he does not necessarily say that this reign will take place on earth, and while some brethren object to any statement of Jesus reigning after His return, likely because the Bible says that at that time He will put down the special reign that He has over the church, the Bible also teaches that when He comes "God may be all in all" and that the saints will reign with Him: 1 Cor. 15.24-28, Rev. 22.5

     CONCL.: Some books have only three stanzas of this song, with stanzas two and three being a composite drawn from stanzas two, three, and four above. When we think of all that God has done for us, providing both for our physical lives here upon this earth and for our spiritual salvation from sin here and the hope of eternal salvation in heaven, we should certainly be moved to sing unto His name, saying, "Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee."


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