"THOU, WHOSE ALMIGHTY WORD"
"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Gen. 1:3)
INTRO.: A hymn which praises God for His light, both the physical light by which we see and the spiritual light of His revelation is "Thou, Whose Almighty Word." The text was written by John Marriott, who was born at Cottsebach, near Lutterworth, England, on Sept. 11, 1780, the son of R. Marriott who was a minister at Cottsebach. After being educated at Rugby and at Christ Church, Oxford, he became a minister in the Church of England in 1804, and for four years he was tutor at Dalkeith Palace to George Henry, Lord Scott, where he became a close friend of the author Sir Walter Scott. In recognition of this, the Duke of Buccleugh invited him to be minister at Church Lawford in Warwickshire, a position which he held for the rest of his life. However, the health of his Marriott’s wife preevented his living in Warwickshire, and he resided in Devonshire near the sea, occasionally travelling to Church Lawford to preach, but also serving various churches near Devon.
Although Marriot produced several hymns, none of these were published, except a few with his permission, before his death at Broadclyst near Exeter, England, on Mar. 31, 1825. The date given for "Thou, Whose Almighty Word" is 1813. Samuel W. Duffield, in his English Hymns, says that Marriott’s text was first published in Dr. Raffle’s Collection in 1816. It was quoted by Thomas Mortimer, lecturer of St. Olave’s in Southward, at a meeting of the London Missionary Society on May 12, 1825, and printed in June of that year in the Evangelical Magazine. The original poem began "Thou, Whose Eternal Word." Several tunes have been used with this hymn. The one (Trinity, Braine, or Braun) found in our books is sometimes attributed to W. R. Braine. However, no information is available on a composer of this name.
The name is believed to be some kind of error for Johann Georg Braun (c. 1625-c. 1680). Braun was a seventeenth-century organist at Eger, Germany, and published Hymnodiae Coelestis, which contained this tune, in 1675 at Ubthala, Germany. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Thou, Whose Almighty Word" appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the
1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand. All of these use only the first two stanzas. McCann wrote in Hymns and History, "GSR, according to E. L. Jorgenson’s usual practice, omits the overtly Trinitarian stanza 4, as well as the direct appeal to the Holy Spirit of stanza 3."
The song is considered a "missionary hymn" encouraging such efforts by appealing to four elements.
I. Stanza 1 mentions the original creative work if God the Father
"Thou whose almighty word Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight;
Hear us, we humbly pray, And where the gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray, Let there be light!"
A. God’s word is almighty because when He spoke in creation, it was done: Ps. 33:9
B. It is to Him, our Father in heaven, that we pray: Matt. 6:9
C. Our prayer is that just as His physical light came to shine over all the earth, His spiritual light would shine upon all mankind: 1 Jn. 1:5-7
II. Stanza 2 mentions the ministry of Christ
"Thou who didst come to bring On Thy redeeming wing
Healing and sight,
Health to the sick in mind, Sight to the inly blind;
O now to all mankind, Let there be light!"
A. When Jesus came, he often brought healing and sight to the physically blind: Matt. 11:1-5
B. However, His main purpose was to bring sight to the inly blind: Matt. 4:12-17
C. For this reason, Jesus called Himself the Light of the World: Jn. 8:12
III. Stanza 3 mentions the work of the Holy Spirit
"Spirit of truth and love, Lifegiving, holy Dove,
Speed forth Thy flight;
Move o’er (on) the water’s face Bearing the lamp of grace;
And in earth’s darkest place, Let there be light."
A. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of truth: Jn. 16:13
B. He is pictured as descending on Christ like a Dove: Matt. 3:16
C. And He gives light through the glorious gospel of Christ which He inspired: 2 Cor. 4:6
IV. Stanza 4 mentions the entire Trinity
"Holy and blessed Three, Glorious Trinity,
Wisdom, Love, Might;
Boundless as ocean’s tide Rolling in fullest pride,
Through the world far and wide, Let there be light!"
A. Some people do not like the word "trinity" because it is not found in the Bible and because in the religious world it might be misunderstood, but I use it simply to refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Matt. 28:19
B. The thought of the stanza is that the wisdom of the Father, the love of the Son, and the might of the Spirit would be a light that would spread as boundless as the ocean’s tide, rolling in fullest pride: Isa. 11:9
C. And we understand that the light comes through the word of God: Ps. 119:105
CONCL.: Each stanza ends with the theme of "Let there be light!" Just as God spoke into existence the physical light which is so necessary for life on earth, so He has provided the spiritual light of His word, through Christ, by means of the revelation of the Holy Spirit, that is necessary for the redemption of mankind from sin. As Christians, we have the responsibility to do whatever we can to spread that light, and it should be our prayer for God’s help to do so when we address Him as "Thou, Whose Almighty Word."