“All Things Bright and Beautiful”

"Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therin, the seas, and all that is therin, and Thou preservest them all…" (Neh. 9:6)

     INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us to praise the God who made and preserves everything is "All Things Bright and Beautiful." The text was written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander (1823-1895). It was first published in her 1848 Hymns for Little Children. Mrs. Alexander is said to have written these lyrics at Marktree Castle, near Sligo in Ireland. Many of her hymns were produced to explain theological beliefs to youngsters. One of her best known songs, "There Is a Green Hill Far Away," was designed to tell how Christ "suffered under Pontius Pilate," and her "Once in Royal David’s City" was intended to show how Jesus "was born of the Virgin Mary." The concept illustrated by "All Things Bright and Beautiful" is "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." Albert Edward Bailey wrote, "For once Mrs. Alexander has forgotten her theology and lost herself in the beauty of nature. She has created a charming hymn for children; the aspects of nature she conjures up are all within the experience of the little people of the Emerald Isle [Mrs. Alexander was Irish] — or anywhere."

     Many melodies have been used with these words. Looking through the various denominational and interdenominational hymnbooks in my collection, I found that the vast majority of them use an old traditional English tune (Royal Oak or 29th of May) that dates from the seventeenth century. It was arranged in the 1915 Song Time by Martin F. Shaw (1875-1958). One tune (Bright and Beautiful) was composed for Mrs. Alexander’s text by William Henry Monk (1823-1889). A few books have a tune (Gerald or Spohr) composed in 1834 by Louis Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859). In our books this tune is most often associated with Horatius Bonar’s "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say." Some newer books use a modern tune (Salsbury) in a "Contemporary Christian Music" style composed with alterations of the text in 1982 for Word Music by Sonny Salsbury (b. 1938). It was arranged in 1986 by Lee Herrington (b. 1941). Many older books have a tune (Danish Tune, All Things, or Greystone), adapted from a traditional Danish folk melody and arranged by W. R. Waghorne for the 1904/1905 Songs for Little People edited by Danielson and Conant and published by The Pilgrim Press. I have seen it used with this song in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal edited by Robert S. Marsden and published by Great Commissions Publications; and the 1969 Mennonite Hymnal edited by Vernon H. Neufeld and published joinly by the Herald Press of Scottsdale, PA, and Faith and Life Press of Newton, KS.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, some slight textual alterations (i. e., the first line as "THE little flower that opens, THE little bird that sings," and the word "All" dropped from "All creatures great and small" in the chorus) in the song were made and a new tune was composed both in 1935 by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). This version appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) and the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 both edited by Sanderson. 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; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; 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.

     The song mentions several different categories of things that the Lord made.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the flowers and birds
"Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings."
 A. God made the little flowers along with all the other plants that yields seed after their kind: Gen. 1:11-12
 B. He also made the little birds that sing as they fly above the earth: Gen. 1:20-21
 C. Indeed, God made everything on this earth and saw that it was very good: Gen. 1:31

II. Stanza 1 talks about the mountains and the rivers
"The purple headed mountain, The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning That brightens up the sky."
 A. God made the mountains: Ps. 65:5-6
 B. He also made the rivers and controls them by His power: Ps. 107:33-35
 C. Indeed, God everything on earth is the fruit of His works: Ps. 104:13

III. Stanza 3 talks about the rich and the poor among mankind
"The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly, And ordered their estate."
 A. There are those who are rich, and they are told not to be haughty or to trust in their riches, but to trus tin God and do good with their wealth: 1 Tim. 6:17-19
 B. There are those who are poor, who are told to glory in the fact that God has made it possible for them to be exalted spiritually: Jas. 1:9
 C. This stanza has been rejected by many as sanctioning the Tory stratification of society or the Calvinistic view of the social order. However, it is still true that whether he is rich or poor, God made each human being: Ps. 139:13-14. If one cannot abide saying, "God ordered their estate," one could substitute "God cares for their estate."

IV. Stanza 4 talks about the seasons of winter and summer
"The cold wind in the winter, The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden, He made them every one."
 A. God made the winter in which the earth can rest and be renewed: Gen. 8:22
 B. He also made the summer in which things can grow and flourish: Ps. 74:17
 C. Indeed, God has made everything on earth to be beautiful in its time: Eccl. 3:11

V. Stanza 5 talks about the woods and the meadows
"The tall trees in the greenwood, The meadows where we play,
The flowers by the water We gather every day."
 A. God made the forests with trees that can be used for wood: Neh. 2:8
 B. He also made the meadows, in which children often play, to grow crops and graze livestock: Gen. 41:1-2
 C. Some hymnbook editors have omitted this stanza as "deemed nostalgic by older urbanites, unimaginable by others raised in the city." I can’t understand why we have to eliminate perfectly good stanzas of songs just because they don’t happen to fit in with the experiences of certain classes of people. In a mobile society which travels much more than many previous generations, whenever anyone does see the forests and fields, they remind us that God did create everything in heaven and earth: Gen. 1:1

VI. Stanza 6 talks about our own eyes and lips
"He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well."
 A. God made our eyes to see the wonders of His creation: Prov. 20:12
 B. He has also made our lips and mouths: Exo. 4:11
 C. Therefore, we can take what we see with our eyes and then tell with our lips that all things were made by the Lord: Jn. 1:3

     CONCL.: The chorus then emphasizes that whatever exists was originally made by the Lord God.
"All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all."
This is a truly lovely song.  Percy Dearmer in Songs of Praise Discussed (1933; p. 239) said of this hymn, "Lines like ‘The ripe fruits in the garden’ [3.2] are perfect examples of good poetry in its simplest form." Yes, the existence of creation points to the Lord God as "maker of heaven and earth." Even a child can understand that as he looks at "All Things Bright and Beautiful."


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