“Songs of Praise”

"…The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy…" (Job 38:7)

     INTRO.: A hymn which points out that God has always been praised in song, even at creation when all the morning stars sang together, and that we should continue to do so is "Songs of Praise." The text was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854). The author of several well known hymns such as "In the Hour of Trial," "According to Thy Gracious Word," and "Go to Dark Gethsemane," he first published it in Thomas Cotterill’s Selection of 1819. Later it was included in Montgomery’s own Christian Psalmist of 1825. Many tunes have been used with the text.  The one (Mozart or Zealotes) which I prefer is arranged from the Kyrie in the Twelfth Mass, an eighteenth century work attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). One book says "School of Mozart, 18th century." Sometimes the date is given as 1821, which is likely its first known printing. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song with stanzas 2, 3, 5, and 6 using this tune appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson. The same tune was used or given as an alternate with "Take My Life, and Let It Be" in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 also edited by Jorgenson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, the tune may be found as an alternate with "Take My Life, and Let It Be" 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; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

     The song refers to several specific situations where songs have been sung, should be sung, or will be sung in praise to God.

I. Stanza 1 mentions the creation
"Songs of praise the angels sang, Heaven with alleluias rang,
When creation was begun, When God spoke and it was done."
 A. I don’t know of a specific passage which says that angels sang at creation, but the Bible does indicate that angels are continually singing praise to the Lord: Rev. 5:11
 B. It is God who created the heavens and the earth: Gen. 1:1
 C. The means by which He did it was that He spoke and it was done: Ps. 33:9

II. Stanza 2 mentions the birth of Christ
"Songs of praise awoke the morn When the Prince of Peace was born;
Songs of praise arose when He Captive led captivity."
 A. Again, the Bible doesn’t specifically say that the angels who announced Christ’s birth sang, but what they said could have been said to music: Lk. 2:13-14
 B. In any event, it was surely a joyful occasion when the Prince of Peace was born: Lk. 2:8-12
 C. It was also a joyful occasion when He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and led captivity captive: Eph. 4:8-10

III. Stanza 3 mentions the end of this world
"Heaven and earth must pass away! Songs of praise shall crown that day!
God will make new heavens and earth; Songs of praise shall hail their birth."
 A. Someday heaven and earth will pass away: Matt. 25:35
 B. At that time, God will make a new heavens and a new earth: 2 Pet. 3:10-12
 C. There is no specific mention in the Bible of singing at either of those times, but the saints are said to be singing the song of Moses and the Lamb as they pass over the sea of glass: Rev. 15:2-4

IV. Stanza 4 mentions the worship of the church
"And can man alone be dumb, Till that glorious kingdom come?
No; the church delights to raise Psalms and hymns and songs of praise."
 A. Given that all the angels and the victorious saints sing songs of praise, can man alone be dumb? No, God wants us to render to Him the sacrifice of praise by the fruit our lips: Heb. 13:15
 B. "That glorious kingdom" obviously refers to "the everlasting kingdom" into which an entrance will be supplied: 2 Pet. 1:11
 C. In preparation for that time, the church delights to raise psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs: Eph. 5:19

V. Stanza 5 mentions the daily lives of saints
"Saints below, with heart and voice, Still in songs of praise rejoice,
Learning here, by faith and love, Songs of praise to sing above."
 A. The saints are those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and make up His church: 1 Cor. 1:1-2
 B. Such saints are to rejoice in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord: Col. 3:16
 C. In so doing, they learn bere below, the songs of faith and love that they can sing above: Rev. 14:1-3

VI. Stanza 6 mentions the time of death and eternal life
"Borne upon their latest breath, Songs of praise shall conquer death;
Then amidst eternal joy, Songs of praise their powers employ."
 A. What a joy to breath a song of praise upon our lips when we meet that final appointment of death: Heb. 9:27
 B. At that point, the righteous begin to experience eternal joy because they enter into their rest: Rev. 14:13
 C. And they can begin the eternal song of praise to the Lamb: Rev. 5:8-10

     CONCL.: There is a seventh stanza, like a doxology, that is almost always omitted:
"Hymns of glory, songs of praise, Father, unto Thee we raise;
Jesus, glory unto Thee, With the Spirit, ever be."
One criticism that was leveled against some of the most popular songbooks among churches of Christ in the middle to late 1900s was that they were very heavy on devotional songs and songs about heaven and rather light on hymns of praise. I am glad to see that some of our more recent books are trying to rectify that situation. Yes, we need to sing songs about our lives as Christians and songs about heaven, but we must also be careful to include in our singing "Songs of Praise."


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