“Father of Heaven”

"The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghoset: and these three are one" (1 Jn. 5:7)

     INTRO.: A hymn which both offers praise to and asks blessings from the Father in heaven, as well as the Word or Son and the Spirit or Holy Ghost is "Father of Heaven (#646 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Edward J. Cooper, who was born in 1770, and received his schooling at Queen’s College. A "Grand Compounder" and Fellow of All Soul’s College at Oxford, he received his B. A. degree on Dec. 17, 1792. In the Oxford list of graduates, his name is "starred" so as to indicate that he took precedence over others in point of social standing. A "compounder" was one who paid extraordinary fees, proportioned to his estate, for the degrees which he took from the university. Becoming a minister with the Anglican Church, Cooper served at Hamstall Ridware from 1799 to 1809 and Yoxhall from 1809 to 1833, both in Staffordshire. Soon after 1800, a number of small hymnbooks were produced in Staffordshire for use in local churches. The first of these was A Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use (the Uttoxeter Collection) published at Uttoxeter in 1805. Cooper, who was one of the editors along with Jonathan Stubbs, Thomas Cotterill, and Thomas Gisborne, contributed two hymns–"Father of Heaven" and "This Is the Day the Lord Hath Blest," simply marked "Cooper."

     The next known appearance of "Father of Heaven" seems to have been in Portions of the Psalms, Chiefly Selected from the Versions of Merrick and Watts, with Occasional Hymns, Adapted to the Service of the Church, for Every Sunday in the Year (the Ashbourne Collection), published in 1808 also at Uttoxeter, where it is identified as anonymous. In some editions of Cotterill’s Selection of Psalms and Hymns which began in 1810, the name J. Cooper is appended. In 1811, Cooper put out his own Selection of Psalms and Hymns (the Lichfield Collection) for use in the church at Yoxhall, with a second edition coming in 1823. Both of these included the hymn, which is based on the litany and consisted of three original stanzas. The fourth, a doxology, was first added in the 1861 Hymns Ancient and Modern. Also, Cooper published seven volumes of Practical and Familiar Sermons, which passed through many editions, and died in 1833, about a quarter of a century after the publication of the hymn. In the Free Church Hymn-Book of 1882, there is a note that the hymn is attributed to Cooper on the authority of an aged minister who knew him personally, John Wakefield of Hughley in Salop, and this has been confirmed by Cooper’s own son, Henry Gisborne Cooper.

     Several tunes have been used or suggested with the hymn, including one (Rivaulx) composed in 1866 by John Bacchus Dykes. Most books have a tune (Quebec, Hesperus, or Venn) that was composed in 1854 or 1859 by Henry Baker (1835-1910). In 1861 it was submitted to the London Penny Post which was searching for a new tune for "Sun of My Soul" by John Keble. With Keble’s text it was first published in John Grey’s 1866 Hymnal for Use in the English Church. Today, that tune is most often associated with the hymn "Father and Friend, Thy Light," written in 1824 by John Bowring. Another similar tune (St. Crispin) that works well with "Father of Heaven" was composed in 1862 by George Job Elvey (1816-1893). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Father of Heaven" has appeared to my knowledge only in Hymns for Worship. Earlier editions had words only with the suggestion to use the tune (Maryton) composed by Henry Percy Smith commonly associated with Washington Gladden’s hymn "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee." The Revised edition sets the text to the Baker melody, which is also used for for Charles W. Everest’s "Take Up Your Cross."

     The hymn calls upon all three persons in the Godhead to bless us.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that the Father will extend His pardoning grace
"Father in heaven, whose love profound A ransom for our souls hath found,
Before Thy throne we humbly bend; To us Thy pardoning love extend."
 A. God the Father dwells in heaven: 1 Ki. 8:30
 B. This God loves us so much that He sent His Son as a ransom for our souls: Matt. 20:28
 C. Therefore, we can be assured that God, as a loving Father, is willing to pardon our sins: Ps. 103:8-13

II. Stanza 2 tells us that the Son will extend His saving grace
"Almighty Son, incarnate Word, Our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord,
Before Thy throne we humbly bend; To us Thy saving grace extend."
 A. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word: Jn. 1:1, 14
 B. Also, He is our Prophet, Priest, and Redeemer, because He is our Lord: 1 Cor. 8:6
 C. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is that He came to save sinners: 1 Tim. 1:12-15

III. Stanza 3 tells us that the Holy Spirit will extend His quickening power
"Eternal Spirit, by whose breath The soul is raised from sin and death,
Before Thy throne we humbly bned; To us Thy quickening power extend."
 A. The Holy Spirit is also called the Eternal Spirit: Heb. 9:14
 B. His breath is what will raise us both from sin and finally from death: Rom. 8:11
 C. The Spirit quickens or gives live to all who obey the words that He has revealed: Jn. 6:63-68

IV. Stanza 4 tells us that the Father, Son, and Spirit will all extend their gifts
"Jehovah Father, Spirit, Son–Mysterious Godhead, Three in One,
Before Thy throne we humbly bend; Grace, pardon, life to us extend."
 A. Jesus referred to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Matt. 28:19
 B. The fact that these three persons are one in their deity and their purpose is often what we mean by the word "Godhead": Acts 17:20, Rom. 1:20, Col. 2:9 (KJV)
 C. We should express our praise to the Lord God Almighty for all that He has done for us: Rev. 4:8-11

     CONCL.: The original in the third line of each stanza may have read, "Before Thy throne we sinners bend," but the few books which have the song and where I was able to check say, "Before Thy throne we humbly bend." God the Father planned our redemption even before the foundation of the world. Jesus the Son executed that plan by dying on the cross for our sins. The Holy Spirit has revealed that plan in the scriptures.  Therefore, we should continually bow in humble gratefulness before the throne of the "Father of Heaven."


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