Wayne S. Walker

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  For His mercy endures
forever” (Psa. 136.1).

     INTRO.:  A hymn which is a metrical version of this psalm is simply
called “Psalm 136” in “Hymns for Worship Revised,” #507, but in other
books is known by its first line, “Let Us With A Gladsome Mind.”  The
text was written by John Milton (1608-1674).  Born of Puritan parents at
Cheapside in London, England, the son of a scrivener (a public clerk or
copyist) and amateur musician, he was educated at St. Paul’s School in
London.  In the winter of 1623-1624, the 15-year old student produced
this free rendering of Psa. 136 in 24 two-line stanzas.  It was not
published until 1645 in his “Poems, Both English and Latin.”  Milton went
on to become a teacher, secretary of foreign affairs to the Commonwealth
Council of State under Oliver Cromwell, and well-known author of such
works as “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained.”

     The poem was never used as a hymn until 1855, when it was included
in the “Congregationalist Hymn Book,” although it had to be polished up
and made to read suitably for a hymn.  This tune (Albertson) was was
composed by Phoebe Palmer Knapp and is most commonly associated with the
hymn, “When My Love For Christ Grows Weak.”  Most books published by
brethren through the years which have included this hymn (“Great Songs of
the Church No. 2,” #433; “Christian Hymns No. 2,” #424; “Christian
Hymnal,” #78; “Abiding Hymns,” #202; and “Christian Hymns No. 3,” #424)
used a tune (Innocents) of unknown origin, sometimes attributed to George
Frederick Handel, and arranged in 1850 for “The Parish Choir” by William
Henry Monk.

     This hymn is an excellent expression of praise to God Almighty.

I. Stanza 1 says that we should praise God simply because He is God
 A. The fact is that everything which is good for us comes from the
kindness of God: Jas. 1.17
 B. Therefore, we should blaze His name abroad, just as God’s people have
always praised Him for His goodness: 1 Ki. 8.66
 C. Also, we must acknowledge that of gods He is the one and only true
God: Deut. 6.4-5, 2 Chr. 2.5

II. Stanza 2 says that we should praise God because He is the provider
for man’s needs
 A. By His power, God made the sun and the other heavenly bodies: Gen.
 B. Furthermore, He created all things living, both animals and man: Gen.
 C. Not only did He create all things, but His creation “He doth feed”
and His hand supplies our every need: Acts 14.14-17

III. Stanza 3 says that we should praise God because of His mercy
 A. God’s kindness extends beyond providing the physical needs of mankind
to making salvation possible through grace: Titus 3.4-5
 B. Thus, for sinful mankind, He is a God of mercy which takes those who
are dead in trespassses and makes them alive: Eph. 2.4-10
 C. And this mercy, ever faithful, ever sure, will endure for all
eternity because it makes possible for us the hope of eternal life in
heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5

      CONCL.:  The singing of Psalms is not as “fashionable” as it was
back in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Of course, if we were to sing
nothing but paraphrases of the Psalms, we would lose many of the great
hymns of faith that we have known and loved through the years.  However,
at the same time, we could do a lot worse than to use the inspired words
of the Bible itself in our worship to God.  And, sadly sometimes, it is
probably true that we actually do worse in our attempts to praise our
Creator.  By using more of the Psalms we might recapture some of the
reverence and devotion that seem lacking in much of our singing today.

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