“It Is Good to Sing Thy Praises”

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name” (Ps. 92:1)

     INTRO.:  A song which exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to His name is “It Is Good to Sing Thy Praises.”  The text, based on Psalm 92, is taken from The Psalter of 1912 published by John McNaugher (1857-1947).  A lot of modern books seek to “update” the language and begin the song, “It Is Good to Sing Your Praises.”  Again, I ask, why?  Several tunes have been or could be used with the hymn, such as one (Ellesdie) attributed to Wolfgang A. Mozart, arranged by Hubert P. Main, suggested by Nethymnal (Cyberhymnal), and most often associated with Henry F. Lyte’s “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken;” and another (Beecher or Zundel) composed by John Zundel for Charles Wesley’s “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”  If one were into playing “musical hymn tunes” (instead of musical chairs), he could sing it to the traditional American melody (Nettleton) attributed to Asahel Nettleton, publishsed by John Wyeth, and commonly associated with Robert Robinson’s “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

     Our books which have the hymn set it to a tune (Blaenwern) composed by William Penfro Rowlands, who was born on Apr. 19, 1860, at Llys Brân near Maenclochog in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  A schoolteacher, Rowlands moved to Morriston in 1881, and first became song director at Bethania Chapel. Later he served at the Morriston Tabernacle Congregational Church from 1892 to 1927.  Also he conducted the Morriston United Choral Society for many years.  This particular melody was produced during the Welsh revival of 1904-1905, most likely in 1905, and published in Henry H. Jones’s 1915 Cân a Moliant.  The tune’s name refers to a farm in Pembrokeshire where Rowlands convalesced in his youth.  During his life, Rowland, a man of many talents, taught in several schools and composed a number of anthems before his death on Oct. 22, 1937, at Swansea in Glamorganshire, Wales. 

     The tune is commonly used in Great Britain as a setting for the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” but also in Wales with the Welsh hymn “Deued Dyddiau O Bob Cymysg” by William Williams, author of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.”  As a setting for “Love Divine” it is a popular choice at English weddings and was voted as one of Britain’s ten favorite hymns in October, 2005.  It gained its current popularity through Billy Graham crusades when it was sung to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the “It Is Good to Sing Your Praises” (“updated” version) with the Rowlands tune may be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The hymn identifies several items related to praising God

I. Stanza 1 mentions thanks
“It is good to sing Thy praises
And to thank Thee, O Most High,
Showing forth Thy lovingkindness
When the morning lights the sky.
It is good when night is falling
Of Thy faithfulness to tell,
While with sweet, melodious praises,
Songs of adoration swell.”
 A. One aspect of praise is offering thanks to God: Ps. 95:1-2
 B. We should give thanks to God for His lovingkindness or mercy: Ps. 136:1-3
 C. We can even sing songs of thanks to the Lord when night is falling: Ps. 42:8

II. Stanza 2 mentions gladness
“Thou hast filled my heart with gladness
Through the works Thy hands have wrought;
Thou hast made my life victorious,
Great Thy works and deep Thy thought.
Thou, O Lord, on high exalted,
Reignest evermore in might;
All Thy enemies shall perish,
Sin be banished from Thy sight.”
 A. The Lord fills the hearts of His people with gladness: Ps. 4:7
 B. One of the things that brings great joy to our hearts is the knowledge of God’s works: Ps. 145:10
 C. It certainly makes God’s people glad to know that He reigns on high: Ps. 93:1

III. Stanza 3 mentions being good
But the good shall live before Thee,
Planted in Thy dwelling place.
Fruitful trees and ever verdant,
Nourished by Thy boundless grace.
In His goodness to the righteous
God His righteousness displays;
God my Rock, my Strength and Refuge,
Just and true are all His ways.”
 A. In order to live before God with a life of praise, we must be good: Ps. 37:23
 B. Those who are thus good, living in harmony with God’s ways, are like fruitful trees: Ps. 1:1-3
 C. God displays His righteousness to those who righteous and good according to His standards: Ps. 99:4-5

     CONCL.:  The first time I ever saw this tune by Rowlands, it was used in a Billy Graham crusade hymnbook with “Love Divine.”  However, right across the page, another hymn, “Lord, Thou Lovest a Cheerful Giver,” was set to the Zundel tune that we usually associate with “Love Divine” and it fits quite well with the Rowlands tune.  I like “Lord, Thou Lovest a Cheerful Giver,” but I personally think that the Psalm 92 paraphrase is a better fit.  Certainly, there can be no finer goal in singing than to tell the Lord, “It Is Good to Sing Thy Praises.”


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