"FROM ALL THAT DWELL BELOW THE SKIES"
"O praise the Lord, all ye nations…" (Ps. 117:1)
INTRO.: A hymn that exhorts all nations to give praise to the Lord is "From All That Dwell Below the Skies." The text of stanzas 1 and 2 was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). It is the second of three paraphrases of Psalm 117 in Watts’s Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament published in 1719. Since it has only two stanzas, its brevity has caused many editors to find additional stanzas. The text of stanzas 3 and 4 is taken from A Pocket Hymn-Book, Designed as a Constant Companion for the Pious, Collected from Various Authors, c. 1780-1781, published by Robert Spence, a Methodist class leader and bookseller in York, England. The stanzas were included without attribution in Spence’s work and today are generally identified as anonymous. Sometimes John Wesley is given as the author of stanza 3 or stanza 4 or both, and sometimes Spence is credited with stanza 3. Stanza 5, a doxology, was added by WIlliam Walsham How (1823-1897).
Many tunes have been used with this hymn, notably one (Duke Street) by John Hatton which in our books is used with "Awake, My Tongue, My Tribute Bring," and another (Old Hundredth) attributed to Louis Bourgeois from the Genevan Psalter usually associated with "All People That on Earth Do Dwell." Some books have still another one (Deus Tuorum Militum), a French church melody used with the Latin office hymn for martyrs taken from the Grenoble Antophoner of 1753 (some sources say 1868). Mary Stulken wrote, "During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, concurrent with the ‘modernization’ of the Breviaries, there arose in France a new kind of church tune. Although generally not clearly cast in a regular rhythmic meter, these tunes were more measured than the older plain-chant and were also in modern major and minor modes. Some of the tunes were adapted from older plainsong melodies, others from secular tunes; but the origins of most of the melodies have not yet been discovered. These French melodies made their way to England…."
This one was adapted as a hymn tune in 1906 for The English Hymnal by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The modern harmonization was made in 1908 for The Oxford Hymnbook by Basil Harwood (1859-1949). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text of "From All That Dwell Below the Skies" appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal with a new tune (Southside) composed by the editor, J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann with an anonymous tune (Lasst Uns Erfreuen) from the 1623 Geistliche Kirchengesang of Cologne, Germany, most often used with "All Creatures of Our God and King."
The song encourages us to give praise to the Creator and to our Redeemer throughout the earth.
I. Stanza 1 tells everyone to praise the Lord
"From all that dwell below the skies Let the Creator’s praise arise;
Let the Redeemer’s name be sung Through every land, by every tongue."
A. The command is addressed to "all that dwell below the skies" or everyone on earth: Ps. 100:1
B. We should let the Creator’s praise arise, and it is God who created the heavens and the earth: Gen. 1:1
C. We should also let the Redeemer’s name be sung, and it is in Christ that we have redemption: Eph. 1:7
II. Stanza 2 says that the Lord’s mercies are eternal
"Eternal are Thy mercies, Lord; Eternal truth attends Thy word.
Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore, Till suns shall rise and set no more."
A. We should praise God for His eternal mercies: Ps. 119:41
B. We should also praise God for His eternal truth: Ps. 119:142
C. This praise should last till sun and moon are no more: Ps. 72:5
III. Stanza 3 praises the Lord for His salvation
"Your lofty themes, ye mortals, bring; In songs of praise divinely sing.
The great salvation loud proclaim, And shout for joy the Savior’s name."
A. Our hearts should overflow with a goodly theme: Ps. 45:1
B. That theme should be the great salvation: Heb. 2:3
C. The Savior, of course, is Jesus Christ the Lord: 1 Jn. 4:14
IV. Stanza 4 reminds us that one way to praise the Lord is in cheerful sounds
"In every land begin the song; To every land the strains belong.
In cheerful sounds all voices raise, And fill the world with loudest praise."
A. God wants people to sing songs to Him: Ps. 28:7
B. Such songs should be voiced in cheerful sounds: Ps. 95:1-2
C. The purpose of these songs is to fill the world with loudest praise for God: Ps. 9:14
V. Stanza 5 expresses praise the the Father, Son, and Spirit
"All praise to God the Father be; All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore, Forever and forever more."
A. We should praise God the Father: Matt. 6:9
B. We should praise the Son: Jn. 5:23
C. And we should praise the Spirit: 2 Cor. 13:14
CONCL.: At one time, nearly all English speaking churches sang only the Psalms, first using the Anglo-Genevan Psalters brought back from Geneva, then the "Old Version" Psalter of Sternhold and Hopkins, and finally the "New Version" of Tate and Brady. For many years after the established Anglican churches stopped using them, the Puritans, Non-conformists, Independents, or Congregationalists among whom Watts worked continued to use them, and his paraphrases were wildly popular in their day. However, Watts also introduced "hymns of human composure," but even after the Independent English churches gave up the Psalms, the Scottish churches continued to use them. And many of them are still preserved for our use today. In fact, a lot of "hymns" by Isaac Watts that are in our books are actually taken from his Psalm paraphrases. While there is nothing wrong with singing "hymns of human composure," it is still good to go back to the Psalms from time to time, recapture their devotional spirit, and make sure that God is given praise "From All That Dwell Below the Skies."