“FATHER AND FRIEND, THY LIGHT, THY LOVE”

Wayne S. Walker

“How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum
of them” (Ps. 139.17)

     INTRO.:  A hymn that praises God for His omniscient thoughts is
“Father And Friend, Thy Light, Thy Love.”  The text was written by John
Bowring (1792-1872).  An English Unitarian who became a businessman,
social reformer, British politician, diplomat in foreign service, and
governor of Hong Kong, he published it in his 1824 “Matins and Vespers,”
Second Edition.  Sometimes the date of 1825 is given.  Other famous hymns
by Bowring are “In the Cross of Christ I Glory,” “God Is Love; His Mercy
Brightens,” and “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night.”

     The tune (Hesperus, Quebec, Whitburn, or Venn) was composed by Henry
Baker (1835-1910).  It was produced in 1854 while Baker was a student in
college.  Submitted by a friend unsigned to the “Penny Post” of London,
England, which in 1861 conducted a search for a new melody for John
Keble’s “Sun of My Soul,” and chosen as winner in 1862 (some sources give
this as the date), it was first published without Baker’s knowledge or
name in “A Hymnal for Use in the English Church” of 1866 by John Grey.
After it appeared in “The Hymnal Companion” of 1871 edited by Edward
Henry Bickersteth, Baker acknowledged it as his.

     Among hymnbooks published by brethren during the twentieth century
for use among churches of Christ, the song was used in the 1922 edition
of the 1921 “Great Songs of the Church” No. 1 and the 1937 “Great Songs
of the Church No. 2″ both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1965 “Great
Christian Hymnal No. 2″ edited by Tillit S. Teddlie.  It is found in the
1971 “Songs of the Church,” the 1990 “Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed.,”
and the 1994 “Songs of Faith and Praise” all edited by Alton H. Howard;
the 1986 “Great Songs Revised” edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992
“Praise for the Lord” edited by John P. Wiegand.  “Hymns for Worship
Revised” uses the same tune with two other hymns (#’s 523 and 646).

     The song acknowledges the infinite knowledge and presence of God.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the works of God
“Father and Friend, Thy light, Thy love, Beaming through all Thy works we
see:
Thy glory gilds the heavens above, And all the earth is full of Thee.”
  A. The works of God give praise to Him: Ps. 145.10
  B. The heavens above declare His glory: Ps. 19.1-2
  C. The earth is His and therefore is full of Him: Ps. 24.1

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the voice of God
“Thy voice we hear, Thy presence feel, While Thou, too pure for mortal
sight,
Enwrapt in clouds, invisible, Reignest the Lord of life and light.”
  A. We hear His voice because He speaks to us through His Son: Heb. 1.1-2
  B. However, He is too pure for mortal sight: Exo. 33.20, 1 Jn. 1.18
  C. Therefore, He is enwrapt in clouds and invisble: Ps. 97.2, 1 Tim.
1.17

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the throne of God
“We know not in what hallowed part Of the wide heavens Thy throne may be;
But this we know, that where Thou art, Strength, wisdom, goodness, dwell
with Thee.”
  A. We know that God dwells in heaven: Matt. 6.9
  B. However, we do not know exactly in what part of heaven His throne is:
Isa. 66.1
  C. Yet, we know that strength, wisdom, and goodness dwell with Him: Rev.
4.11

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the nearness of God
“Thy children shall not faint nor fear, Sustained by this delightful
thought;
Since Thou, their God, art everywhere, They cannot be where Thou art
not.”
  A. God’s children shall not faint nor fear because they are preserved by
the Lord: Ps. 124.7-8
  B. They know that their God is everywhere: Ps. 139.7-12
  C. Therefore, they cannot be where He is not because He is not far from
everyone of us: Acts 17.27

     CONCL.:  Hymns such as this were once universal in their usage among
people who wished to praise God in song.  Unfortunately, over the last
forty years, they have largely given way to “praise songs” in many
religious services.  It is evidently felt by a lot of people that the
expressions of worship to God in song from ages past no longer speak to
our modern generation’s needs.  While not necessarily rejecting the new,
we should not throw the old out completely.  There is nothing outdated in
the language of this song as we come before our God and say, “Father and
Friend, Thy Light, Thy Love.”

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