I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Words:CMD • Isaac Watts (1715), alt.
Music:ELLACOMBE • German melody (18th cent.) from Württemberg Gesangbuch (1784), alt. Gesangbuch Mainz (1833), har. Gesangbuch St Gallen (1863), alt. English Hymnal (1906)

Words

1.

I sing the mighty pow’r of God
  That made the mountains rise;
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
  And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
  The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command,
  And all the stars obey.

2.

I sing the goodness of the Lord,
  That filled the earth with food;
He formed the creatures with His word,
  And then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Your wonders are displayed
  Where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread,
  Or gaze upon the sky.

3.

There’s not a plant or flow’r below,
  But makes Your glories known;
And clouds arise and tempests blow
  By order from Your throne.
All creatures, num’rous as they be,
  Are subject to Your care;
There’s not a place where we can flee,
  But God is present there.

4.

In heav’n He shines with beams of love,
  With wrath in hell beneath;
It’s on His earth I stand or move
  And it’s His air I breathe.
His hand is my perpetual guard,
  He keeps me with His eye;
Why should I then forget the Lord,
  Who is forever nigh?

About the Words

Vss 1 and 2 praise God for His creation and are clearly rooted in Genesis 1. Vs 1 praises God for His wisdom in creating the earth, seas, sun, moon, and stars, while vs 2 goes on to laud God for His creation of all living things. Vs 2 concludes with the author looking around at all that God has done and praising Him for the wonder of everything He has created.

Vss 3 and 4 remind us that God is ruler over His creation and, therefore, we should live accordingly. “There’s not a place where we can flee, But God is present there” is a clear allusion to Psalm 139:7-8. It is impossible for us to escape God. We can either fight against Him in futility and ultimately face His judgment (“With wrath in hell beneath”), or we can put our trust in Him and enjoy the benefit of His never-failing protection and love (“In heav’n He shines with beams of love” and “His hand is my perpetual guard, He keeps me with His eye”). Given the choice, “Why should I then forget the Lord, Who is forever nigh?”

Other Biblical allusions and echoes can be heard throughout the hymn. For example, passages such as Psalm 19:1-6, Psalm 104, and Job 26 may come to mind.

Compared to Hymnals

We did not adopt the common altering of stanza 3

Some hymnals have adopted an excellent but altered form of the second half of verse 3 (perhaps starting in about 1950?):

While all that borrows life from Thee
Is ever in Thy care,
And everywhere that man can be
Thou, God, art present there.

This is a nice ending to the stanza and has the advantage of eliminating the awkward spot in Watt’s original where the word “Creatures” does not match the poetic meter. However, the original allusion to Psalm 139:7-8 is lost, and the idea that God is a judge we cannot run away from is (at the very least) diminished. Consequently, the original connection to verse 4 is weakened (“In heav’n He shines with beams of love, With wrath in hell beneath…”).

We decided to stay close to Watt’s original wording to keep the allusion to Psalm 139:7-8, adopting only a small change so that the syllables of the word “creatures” are emphasized more naturally (instead of “Creatures as” we use “All creatures”).

We updated archaic English

There are a small number of archaic words in the original (Thy and ’Tis) which, for this hymn, can be easily modernized. Some hymnals prefer the original archaic form, while others, like Praise for the Lord, prefer the modern equivalents (Your and It’s). Because it did not break any rhymes or make the tone sound unnatural, we have we have chosen to use modern English for clarity.

  No. Words Music
Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs 74 Uses original archaic English;
Uses common alt. of vs 3;
Swaps order of vss 3, 4
Identical
Songs of Faith and Praise 75 Uses original archaic English;
Uses common alt. of vs 3;
Lacks vs 4
Alto sings DO SOL instead of LA SOL at end of measure 10;
Adds repeat of final phrase on last vs with extra bass and tenor notes;
Adds Amen
Praise for the Lord 941 Changes “stars obey” to “seas obey” in vs 1;
Uses original but metrically awkward “Creatures, as” in vs 3
Alto sings DO SOL instead of LA SOL at end of measure 10
Hymns for Worship (Revised) n/a
Songs of the Church n/a
Sacred Selections n/a
Christian Hymns No. 2 n/a
Great Songs of the Church No. 2 n/a

Sources

Words

  • Isaac Watts, Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (1715)

Music

  • The English Hymnal with Tunes (1906)

References

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Through [Jesus] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.
— Hebrews 13:15