Thursday, July 4, 2013

New Mercies Shall New Songs Demand

Independence Day is not observed in all churches, and probably most often there is some acknowledgment of the occasion on the nearest Sunday, even if it's only an elaborate organ postlude of some patriotic song or other.

The Revised Common Lectionary does include scripture readings for the day itself for churches who have such services, so that means we can have a hymn based on a psalm for the day.  In this case, it's a partial paraphrase of Psalm 145, set to an appropriately muscular and majestic tune called NIAGARA (a great Native American name, no?).

Our helper, God, we bless your name,
Whose love forever is the same;
The tokens of whose gracious care
Begin and crown and close the year.

Amid ten thousand snares we stand,
Supported by your guardian hand;
And see, when we review our ways,
Ten thousand monuments of praise.

Thus far your arm has led us on;
Thus far we make your mercy known;
And while we tread this earthly land,
New mercies shall new songs demand.

Our grateful souls on Jordan’s shore
Shall raise one sacred pillar more,
Then bear, in your bright courts above,
Inscriptions of immortal love.

Philip Doddridge, 1755
Tune: NIAGARA (L.M.)
Robert Jackson, 19th cent.

Philip Doddridge, whose June 26 birthday I missed last week, wrote a number of psalm paraphrases among his many hymn texts, as they were much more widely used among the churches of the eighteenth century.  I think it suits this day quite well, a hymn of praise without the patriotic overtones that many people question, though the theme is clearly there in the third stanza.

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