"PRAISE TO GOD, IMMORTAL PRAISE"
"For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving" (1 Tim. 4:4)
INTRO.: A hymn which express thanks and gives praise to God for all His creatures and goodness is "Praise to God, Immortal Praise." The text was written by Anna Laetitia Aiken Barbauld (1743-1825). It first appeared, under the heading "Praise to God in Prosperity and Adversity," with nine four-line stanzas in W. Enfield’s 1772 Hymns for Public Worship (sometimes the date is given as 1773 from her own published Poems). Several melodies have been used with the words. One (Dix), requiring some rearranging of the text, was composed by Conrad Kocher and is most commonly used with "For the Beauty of the Earth" by Folliot S. Pierpont. Another (Nuremberg) was composed by Johann R. Ahle and is often used with the anonymous Latin hymn, "Soldiers, Who Are Christ’s Below." Still another (Song 13) was composed by Orlando Gibbons. Most of our books use one (Pleyel’s Hymn) composed by Ignaz J. Pleyel and more often associated with "Children of the Heavenly King" by John Cennick.
Many older books use a tune (Prayer) that was composed by Asahel Abbott. It is dated 1852. I have been unable to find much other information about this composer, except that he lived in the 1800’s. According to Famous Composers and Their Works (1891), Vol. 4 (p. 938), edited by John Knowles Paine, Theodore Thomas, and Karl Klauser, "Asahel Abbot, in New York, whose memory is preserved by scarcely more than half a dozen of the older musicians of the city, wrote no less than ten oratorios in the style of Handel, between 1845 and 1860. One of them even attained to the dignity of a public performance. Since they were never printed, it is impossible to say how successfully the feat of writing in the manner of Handel was accomplished." I did find a little information about an Asahel Abbott who was born on Mar. 13, 1808, to Daniel and Hannah Wiggins Porter Abbott. He was married to Martha Lamb on July 3, 1836, and their children were Louisa, Austin, Julia Bell, Martha, Antha Marie, Fidelia Elizabeth, Lucy Hubbard, Henry Kirk. He died on Mar. 20, 1873. I did not know if the Asahel Abbot mentioned in Famous Composers is the same one who composed the tune, and I did not know if the Asahel Abbot born in 1808 is the same as the one in Famous Composers, but the timing at least makes this all possible.
However, one correspondent sent me the following note. "Asahel Abbott (born 1808, married to Martha, etc.) was a farmer in Michigan in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Which is not to suggest that farmers can’t compose music, but there is a likelier contender. In the 1870 and 1880 censuses, living in New York (Brooklyn), there was a music teacher named Asahel Abbott. Wife was Elizabeth and there was a son George (who was also teaching music in 1880). This Asahel was born in New Hampshire and lived from 1805 to 1888. One source I ran across characterized him as a ‘… prolific but virtually unknown composer,’ and a ‘sturdy self-made New Englander who has for some years taught music in New York.’ He composed 11 oratorios, 10 of which may never have seen the light of day, performance-wise. The 11th, The Waldenses, was performed several times, but apparently was somewhat mediocre." This is undoubtedly the Asahel Abbot who composed the tune.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Praise to God, Immortal Praise" appeared in the 1925 edition of 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; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie (all with the Pleyel tune). 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 (with the Pleyel tune); the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann (with the Gibbons tune); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat (both of the latter with the Pleyel tune).
The song lists a number of items for which we can be thankful and praise God.
I. Stanza 1 mentions God’s general bounty
"Praise to God, immortal praise, For the love that crowns our days;
Bounteous source of every joy, Let Thy praise our tongues employ."
A. We should always be thankful for all that the Lord has done for us: Col. 3:15
B. One way that God’s love has been shown to us is by His blessings: Matt. 5:44-45
C. God has certainly been bountiful to us and enriched us in everything: 2 Cor. 9:11
II. Stanza 2 mentions the crops
"For the blessings of the field, For the stores our gardens yield,
For the joy which harvests bring, Grateful praises now we sing."
A. God made fields where farmers can plant their seed: Ps. 107:37
B. He made possible gardens where people can grow food: Jer. 29:5
C. From these, we can enjoy the harvests of our labors: Exo. 23:16
III. Stanza 3 mentions nature
"Clouds that drop refreshing dews, Suns that genial heat diffuse,
Flocks that whiten all the plain, Yellow sheaves of ripened grain."
A. The clouds produce the moisture that is needed to water the earth: Isa. 55:10
B. The sun provides light and heat for the earth: Gen. 1:14-18
C. These blessings make possible the flocks and grain of which we can eat and be full: Deut. 8:10
IV. Stanza 4 mentions the seasons
"All that Spring, with bounteous hand, Scatters o’er the smiling land;
All that liberal Autumn pours From her o’erflowing stores."
A. God ordained the seasons, spring or seedtime, and autumn or harvest, for man’s good: Gen. 8:22
B. Indeed, the entire year is crowned with God’s goodness: Ps. 65:11
C. It is through His ordering of the seasons that God makes possible our overflowing stores: Ps. 144:13
V. Stanza 5 mentions all of God’s blessings
"These, great God, to Thee we owe, Source whence all our blessings flow;
And for these our souls shall raise Grateful vows and solemn praise."
A. Everything we have we owe to God because every good and perfect gift comes from Him: Jas. 1:17 (do we see a "tip of the hat" here to Thomas Ken’s doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow"?)
B. Therefore, our souls should magnify the Lord: Lk. 2:46
C. And we should raise solemn and grateful vows to the Lord: Ps. 61:8
VI. Stanza 6 mentions what our response should be
"As thy prospering hand hath blest, May we give Thee of our best;
And by deeds of kindly love For Thy mercies grateful prove."
A. However, as important as it is, it is not enough just to express thanks and praise to the Lord in word; we need to give Him of our best in turn as He has prospered us: 1 Cor. 16:1-2
B. One way in which we do this is by deeds of kindly love to others: Matt. 25:31-40
C. And by giving ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord, we prove our devotion to Him: Rom. 12:1-2
CONCL.: The other stanzas are as follows:
6. "Yet, should rising whirlwinds tear From its stem the ripening ear;
Should the fig tree’s blasted shoot Drop her green untimely fruit."
7. "Should the vine put forth no more, Nor the olive yield her store;
Though the sickening flocks should fall, And the herds desert the stall."
8. "Yet to Thee our souls shall raise Grateful vows and solemn praise
And, when every blessing’s flown, Love Thee for Thyself alone."
Some books also add a 1740 doxology doxology by Charles Wesley (1707-1788):
"Sing we to our God above Praise eternal for His love;
Praise Him, all ye heavenly host, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
Sometimes this lovely little hymn is relegated to "Thanksgiving Services" and forgotten the rest of the year. Among us, it is probably not well known because it has not been included in some of our more popular hymnbooks. But it is always good to be reminded that we need to give "Praise to God, Immortal Praise."