Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart. Pablo Casals
Sir Robert Grant, who was about to be appointed as Governor of Bombay sat in his study in India and penned the words to today’s famous hymn, O Worship The King All Glorious Above. Grant, who had been appointed by the British Empire to succeed his father, Charles, as Director of the East India Company (EIC), had recently been reading William Kethe’s paraphrase of Psalm 104, published in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561. Kethe’s words inspired Grant to write his own meditation on the creation theme found within that psalm. The six-stanza hymn, written in 1833, and then published in 1835, is astounding…
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.
O measureless might! Ineffable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble there lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.
Though Sir Robert Grant never became a prolific hymn writer like a Wesley or a Watts (less than a dozen of Grant’s works were published after his death in 1838), this godly man did go on to accomplish a great amount of good for the cause of social justice throughout his lifetime. Sir Robert was born in India in 1779. His father, Charles Grant, a Scot, was a very influential man within the British Empire, and was assigned to India by the government to oversee the East India Company (EIC), a corporation formed to pursue trade with the East Indies, India and China. During the time of Charles Grant’s leadership, the EIC accounted for more than half of the world’s trade; focusing on such important commodities as cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, tea and opium.
The late 1700’s and early 1800’s were turbulent times for the British Empire. Upstart nations that once belonged to the Empire were rising up to establish their own independence. The American Colonies had successfully broken free from the Empire by 1783 and others were bucking for their freedom as well. One of the underlying issues that drove these turbulent events, of course, was commerce, and sadly, a big portion of that day-to-day commerce was slave trading.
By the time Sir Robert Grant took over his father’s position with the East India Company, British leaders were openly arguing the subject of slavery. Most wanted the status quo, but there were some like William Wilberforce and others who were lobbying hard for the end of slavery throughout the Empire. During his time in India, serving first as Director of the EIC, and later as the Governor of Bombay, Sir Robert joined with men like Wilberforce in bringing legislation forth that would finally abolish slavery forever.
Which brings us now back to 1833, the pivotal year Sir Robert penned his famous hymn. Back in London, William Wilberforce, the great Emancipator who had given his life to changing the laws of the land, finally saw the British Parliament pass his Slavery Abolition Act, which effectively brought about an end to slavery throughout the British Empire. The one exception to the law, however, included those living within “in the Possession of the East India Company,” the “Island of Ceylon” and “the Island of St. Helena.”
During his service as Governor of Bombay and as a working member of the British Parliament, Sir Robert worked tirelessly to sponsor legislation that would; 1) make the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act inclusive throughout the entire British Empire (which was finally accomplished in 1843, five years after Sir Robert’s death), and 2) remove all civil restrictions on the Jewish population throughout the Empire. For his faithful work and service to the British Crown, Sir Robert Grant was knighted in 1834. As I see it, this great hymn-writer and worker for social justice was knighted in God’s Kingdom long before!
My prayer: Father God, thank You for men and women like Sir Robert Grant, who understood the greatness of God and work diligently for Kingdom justice, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what works of justice are requiring my attention today? How might I be, like Sir Robert Grant, a man of worship and adoration of God, while also adding my voice to the advancing freedoms of God’s Kingdom in a world where people are still oppressed and living under the burdens of social injustice?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?
Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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