"WHEN ALL THY MERCIES, O MY GOD"
"Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright" (Ps. 33:1)
INTRO.: A hymn which rejoices in the Lord and gives praise to His "When All Thy Mercies." The text was written by Joseph Addison (1672-1719). The author of several hymns, such as "The Spacious Firmament on High" and "The Lord My Pasture Shall Prepare," he first published the poem in the Aug. 9, 1712, issue of his newspaper The Spectator following an essay on "Gratitude" in which he said, "I have already obliged the public with some pieces of divine poetry which have fallen into my hands, and as they have met with the reception they deserve, I shall, from time to time, communicate any work of the same nature which has not appeared in print, and may be acceptable to my readers." Several tunes have been used with "When All Thy Mercies," but most of our books use one (Geneva) which was composed by John Cole, who was born at Tewksbury, England, in 1774, and emigrated with his parents to the United States in 1785 at the age of eleven. Brought up in Baltimore, MD, he eventually married there and made it his permanent home.
In early life, Cole showed a natural talent and love for music and attended the singing schools conducted by Andrew Laws, Thomas Atwill, Spicer Johnson, and others. Soon, he began to instruct in psalmody as well and also devoted time to practice on several instruments, becoming the leader of a band which gained great popularity during the War of 1812. His business as an organist and music printer brought him into the company of many distinguished musicians. In the early history of our country, Baltimore assumed an important place in its musical development, and much of the credit for this is due to Cole. A baritone, for a long time he was song director at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore. Becoming a publisher around 1797 by buying the music stock of Mr. Carr, he continued to publish and sell music almost to the day of his death, being the first publisher to include a picture on the title page of his sheet music publications. Some fourteen different compilations bear his name as publisher: A Collection of Psalm Tunes and Anthems, Beauties of Psalmody, Collection of Anthems, Devotional Harmony, Divine Harmonist, Ecclesiastical Harmony, Episcopalian Harmony, Laudate Dommum, The Minstrel, Sacred Melodies, The Seraph, Songs of Zion, Union Harmony, and Music for the Church.
The present tune is dated 1805. Cole died in Baltimore on Aug. 17, 1855. The arrangement is from Joseph Funk’s Harmonia Sacra (some sources give the 1832 edition, others the 1867 edition). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church, 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; and with a tune (St. Peter) by Alexander R. Reneigle, most often associated with "In Christ There Is No East or West," in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, the song is 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 a tune (Winchester Old) from Thomas Est’s Whole Book of Psalms, most often used in our books with "In Memory of the Savior’s Love", in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song is one of thanksgiving to God for all His wonderful blessings in this life and the next.
I. Stanza 1 expresses thanks for all God’s mercies
"When all Thy mercies, O my God, My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost In wonder, love, and praise."
A. We should sing of the mercies of the Lord: Ps. 89:1
B. "My rising soul" suggests awakening in the morning with the knowledge that we are with God: Ps. 139:17-18
C. With all these mercies, we should be lost in wonder, love, and praise: Ps. 146:1-2
II. Stanza 2 expresses thanks for the unnumbered comforts on our souls while infants
"Unnumbered comforts on (to) my soul Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived From Whom those comforts flowed."
A. God’s care has bestowed unnumbered comforts on our souls because He cares for us: 1 Pet. 5:7
B. He even cares for us as infanats while we are still in the womb: Ps. 139:13
C. Therefore, we should even in the days of our youth remember that these comforts come from our Creator: Eccl. 12:1
III. Stanza 3 expresses thanks for the thousand precious gifts each day
"Ten thousand thousand precious gifts My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the least a cheerful heart That tastes those gifts with joy."
A. Our thanks for the thousand precious gifts should be part of our daily vows: Ps. 61:8
B. One of these gifts is a cheerful heart: Ps. 4:7
C. And we can be thankful that we can tastes His gifts while we rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
IV. Stanza 4 expresses thanks for God’s care in both sickness and sin
"When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou With health renewed my face;
And, when in sins and sorrows sunk, Revived my soul with grace."
A. All of us have times when we were worn with sickness and we can be thankful that God renewed our health: Phil. 2:25-27
B. Also, each of us have had to deal with the problem of sin and the sorrows it brings: 1 Jn. 1:8
C. Yet, we can be thankful that God offers to revive our souls with grace through forgiveness of sins: Acts 8:22
V. Stanza 5 expresses thanks for God’s goodness in every period of life
"Through every period of my life Thy goodness I’ll pursue,
And after death, in distant worlds, The glorious theme renew."
A. God has promised to go with us through every period of our lives: Ps. 23:6
B. Therefore, we can always be thankful for His goodness: Ps. 31:19
C. Furthermore, God’s benefits through godliness are profitable not only in this life but after death in the life to come: 1 Tim. 4:8
VI. Stanza 6 expresses thanks for the hope of eternity’s joy
"Through all eternity, to Thee A joyful song I’ll raise;
But (For) O eternity’s too short To utter all Thy praise!"
A. We can look forward to joy for eternity because God has promised us eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
B. In the eternal state, we can join with the angels and redeemed of all ages to sing to the Lord: Rev. 5:8-10
C. And if we praise God here, in word and deed, we shall be able to praise Him for ever and ever: Rev. 19:5
CONCL.: Here are the omitted stanzas:
2. "O how can words with equal warmth The gratitude declare,
That glows within my ravished heart? But Thou canst read it there."
3. "Thy Providence my life sustained, And all my wants redressed,
When in the silent womb I lay, And hung upon the breast."
4. "To all my weak complaints and cries Thy mercy lent an ear;
Ere yet my feeble thoughts had learned To form themselves in prayer."
6. "When in the slippery paths of youth With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arms, unseen, conveyed me safe, And led me up to man."
7. "Through hidden dangers, toils, and deaths, It gently cleared my way;
And through the pleasing snares of vice, More to be feared than they."
9. "Thy bounteous hand with worldly bliss Hast made my cup run o’er;
And in a kind and faithful friend Hast doubled all my store."
12. "When nature falls, and day and night Divide Thy works no more,
My ever grateful heart, O Lord, Thy mercies shall adore."
Albert E. Bailey noted, "In cutting down the number of stanzas to four or five, our present editors have spoiled the fine sequence of the original in which God’s constant guidance and blessings are shown." Forrest M. McCann wrote, "The verses omitted are probably as useful as the ones included." Obviously, not every stanza of every song can be included in every hymnbook. The song with the Cole tune is not an easy one to render, but with the glorious praise of Addison’s words and the joyful strain of the music, it is worth the effort to sing, "When All Thy Mercies, O My God."