Words by Robert Robinson (1735-1790)

It is not unusual that we have reached a hymn that is unfamiliar to me. While growing up in the tradition that included our hymnal of study, there were selections that were often over-looked or just plain skipped as we sang our Sunday morning worship tunes. This is one of those hymns. So unfamiliar was it that it did not make it to the editors’ last selection in any of the other hymnals in my library. Nevertheless, we will look at these words and see what we can find there. Perhaps it will be a revived hymn that returns to future hymnals.

The Hymn

  1. Mighty God, while angels bless Thee,
    May a mortal sing Thy Name?
    Lord of men as well as angels,
    Thou art every creature’s theme.
    Lord of every land and nation,
    Ancient of eternal days.
    Sounded through the wide creation
    Be Thy just and endless praise.
  2. For the grandeur of Thy nature,
    Grand beyond a seraph’s thought;
    For the wonders of creation,
    Works with skill and kindness wrought.
    For Thy providence, that governs,
    Through Thine empire’s wide domain,
    Wings an angel, guides a sparrow,
    Blessèd be Thy gentle reign.
  3. For Thy rich, Thy free redemption,
    Bright, though veiled in darkness long,
    Thought is poor, and poor expression;
    Who can sing that wondrous song?
    Brightness of the Father’s glory,
    Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?
    Break, my tongue, such guilty silence!
    Sing the Lord Who came to die.
  4. From the highest throne of glory
    To the cross of deepest woe,
    All to ransom guilty captives;
    Flow my praise, forever flow!
    Reascend, immortal Savior;
    Leave Thy footstool, take Thy throne;
    Thence return, and reign forever,
    Be the kingdom all Thine own! (Source for Hymn Words: Cyber Hymnal)

Scriptural Connection

This is a hymn of general praise. Therefore it would be good to find a connection in the Psalms. One suggestion is Psalm 47:7 – God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise.”

Another possibility might be to look to Paul’s letter to the Philippian church (Philippians 2:9-11) where we learn that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

What does it mean?

Verse one of this hymn calls for the worship of God. Why? It is because worshiping God is the right (or “just” as stated in the last line) response to God. One tricky bit of terminology that should be addressed in stanza one is the reference to the Ancient of Days. This is a title that has been attributed to the Creator from the bygone days of Biblical history. God is the “Ancient” because of His existence before the world began. In our hymn today He is the “Ancient of eternal days” because He is ever-existent.

The oxymora that open stanza three are classic in their poesy. The redemption that is both rich and free at the same time. This is a gospel appeal. The hymn writer also reminds us that this redemption is not understood by many, but that those who do find it see it in its brightness.

Another troubling word might be “reascend” found in stanza 4. The poet is calling for Christ (the Savior) to take his rightful place in Heaven’s throne room.

A final word about this hymn that may be helpful is that Robinson is questioning (several times through the hymn) if humans—lowly and unworthy as we are—should have the ability or even be allowed to praise God (right along with the angels). Notice that he suggests that our best praise will be compared to a person who always speaks with a lisp. He also indicates that the highest thoughts and expressions known to man are too poor in quality to sing the praise of the Maker/Savior/Master (read verse 3 again).

The conclusion is that even though our praise is poor, it must be expressed—and we must sing right alongside the angels and all of Creation.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.