For All the Saints

Full Text

1 For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, alleluia!

2 Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
thou in the darkness drear their one true light.
Alleluia, alleluia!

3 O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, alleluia!

4 And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song.
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, alleluia!

5 From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, alleluia!

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text begins with a proclamation of thanksgiving for the saints ("the cloud of witnesses") who confessed Christ and found in him protection and inspiration (st. 1-2). That proclamation is followed by a prayer for Christ's soldiers on earth to be "faithful, true, and bold" (st. 3). At the crux of the text is the confession of a "blest communion" of saints in heaven and on earth (st. 4). Though the holy warfare may be "fierce and long" (st. 5), "all the saints" may take courage from the vision of a victorious church that worships the triune God on that "more glorious day" (st. 6-7).


Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Two rich and beautiful professions are woven together in this song—the perseverence of the saints, and the ultimate consummation for the church. In conjunction with this song, one might consider forming a litany from the words of the Canons of Dort V, 3 and Belgic Confession, Article 37:

  • Canons of Dort V, 3: “But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.”
  • Belgic Confession, Article 37: “…the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor. The Son of God will profess their names before God his Father the holy and elect angels; all tears shall be wiped from their eyes and their cause…will be acknowledged as the cause of the Son of God. As a reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine.”

Similarly, a litany could be constructed from the words of Our World Belongs to God, paragraphs 56-58. Rich testimonies of hope are found in these words!


For All the Saints

Call to Worship

God of grace and glory,
whom saints and angels
delight to worship in heaven,
we bless you,
we magnify you,
we adore you
as Lord of heaven and earth.
We bless and thank you
for all those made saints
through Jesus Christ,
who have testified to your love,
and shared the gifts with which you graced them.
May your Spirit be powerfully at work
through the communion of your saints
to build us all up in faith and love,
for loving service to each other
and to the world you so love,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
who for the sake of the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, disregarding its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself
from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
—Hebrews 12:1-3, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

I looked, and there was a great multitude
that no one could count, from every nation,
from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God
who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
We praise you, O God, for all your saints in heaven.
How grateful we are of the life and witness of . . .
[A list of names may be read.]
We also praise you for all those whose names are held in your loving memory,
the vast company of voices who acclaim you as Lord.
We are grateful for this vast company of witnesses.
Strengthen us as we follow their lead.
Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus,
forerunner in faith, Lord of all.
Strengthen us in the hope that we with them
will taste and see your goodness in the land of the living.
By your Spirit, teach us even now
to sing the song of heaven:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb. Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
—based on 1 Corinthians 2:9; Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 7:9-12
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

For All the Saints

Tune Information

G Major
10.10.10 with alleluias



For All the Saints

Hymn Story/Background

"For All the Saints" is considered to be William W. How's finest hymn text. Originally in eleven stanzas, it was pub­lished in Earl Nelson's Hymns far Saints' Days (1864) with the heading, "Saints' Day Hymn. A Cloud of Witnesses. Heb. 12:1."
Inspired by Hebrews 12:1, William W. How’s grand text originally included stanzas for apostles, evangelists, and martyrs. The text begins with a proclamation of thanksgiving for the saints ("the cloud of witnesses") who confessed Christ and found in him protection and inspiration (st. 1-2). At the crux of the text is the confession of a "blest communion" of saints in heaven and on earth (st. 3). Though the holy warfare may be "fierce and long" (st. 4), "all the saints" may take courage from the vision of a victorious church that worships the triune God on that "more glorious day" (st. 5-6).
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the tune, SINE NOMINE, (with its energetic “walking bass”) for this text and published them together in the English Hymnal (1906). Vaughan Williams wrote two harmonizations­–one for unison stanzas and one for choral stanzas. The tune's title means "without name" and follows the Renaissance tradition of naming certain compositions "Sine Nomine" if they were not settings for preexisting tunes.
Equipped with a "walking" bass, SINE NOMINE is a glorious marching tune for this great text. Many consider this tune to be among the finest of twentieth-century hymn tunes (it is, perhaps, the cathedral's equivalent to “When the Saints Go Marching In”). Allowing the "alleluia" phrase to enter before our expectation of it is a typical and very effective Vaughan Williams touch.
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the tune (with its energetic “walking bass”) for this text and published them together in the English Hymnal (1906).
— Bert Polman

Author Information

William W. How (b. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, 1823; d. Leenane, County Mayo, Ireland, 1897) studied at Wadham College, Oxford, and Durham University and was ordained in the Church of England in 1847. He served various congregations and became Suffragan Bishop in east London in 1879 and Bishop of Wakefield in 1888. Called both the "poor man's bishop" and "the children's bishop," How was known for his work among the destitute in the London slums and among the factory workers in west Yorkshire. He wrote a number of theological works about controversies surrounding the Oxford Movement and attempted to reconcile biblical creation with the theory of evolution. He was joint editor of Psalms and Hymns (1854) and Church Hymns (1871). While rector in Whittington, How wrote some sixty hymns, including many for chil­dren. His collected Poems and Hymns were published in 1886.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Through his composing, conducting, collecting, editing, and teaching, Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England, 1872; d. St. Marylebone, London, England, 1958) became the chief figure in the realm of English music and church music in the first half of the twentieth century. His education included instruction at the Royal College of Music in London and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as additional studies in Berlin and Paris. During World War I he served in the army medical corps in France. Vaughan Williams taught music at the Royal College of Music (1920-1940), conducted the Bach Choir in London (1920-1927), and directed the Leith Hill Music Festival in Dorking (1905-1953). A major influence in his life was the English folk song. A knowledgeable collector of folk songs, he was also a member of the Folksong Society and a supporter of the English Folk Dance Society. Vaughan Williams wrote various articles and books, including National Music (1935), and composed numerous arrange­ments of folk songs; many of his compositions show the impact of folk rhythms and melodic modes. His original compositions cover nearly all musical genres, from orchestral symphonies and concertos to choral works, from songs to operas, and from chamber music to music for films. Vaughan Williams's church music includes anthems; choral-orchestral works, such as Magnificat (1932), Dona Nobis Pacem (1936), and Hodie (1953); and hymn tune settings for organ. But most important to the history of hymnody, he was music editor of the most influential British hymnal at the beginning of the twentieth century, The English Hymnal (1906), and coeditor (with Martin Shaw) of Songs of Praise (1925, 1931) and the Oxford Book of Carols (1928).
— Bert Polman
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