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556. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

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Text Information
First Line: Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father
Title: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Author: Thomas O. Chisholm (1923)
Refrain First Line: Great is thy faithfulness
Meter: 11 10 11 10 with refrain
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ;
Topic: Walk with God; Assurance; Creation (6 more...)
Copyright: Text and music © 1923, 1951, Hope Publishing Co. All rights reserved. Used by permission
Tune Information
Composer: William M. Runyan (1923)
Meter: 11 10 11 10 with refrain
Key: D Major
Copyright: Text and music © 1923, 1951, Hope Publishing Co. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Lam. 3:22, James 1:17
st. 2 = Ps. 36:5.Ps. 104:19
ref. = Lam. 3:23, James 1:17

"There is no circumstantial background for 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness,'" writes its author, Thomas O. Chisholm (PHH 292). He goes on to say that it was simply the result of his "morning by morning realization of God's personal faithfulness." Chisholm wrote the text in Vineland, New Jersey, in 1923, and sent it to his friend William M. Runyan, who composed the tune. Set to FAITHFULNESS, the text was published in Runyan's Songs of Salvation and Service (1923). "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" is a vibrant testimony to the faithfulness of God, a testimony Chisholm reaffirmed in 1941:

I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that he has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.

The text emphasizes the immutability of God (st. 1), a constancy to which nature attests (st. 2). But the greatest evidence of God's unfailing love is his forgiveness and "presence to cheer and to guide" us each day of our walk with him (st. 3). The refrain was inspired by the comforting words of Lamentations 3:22-23.

Liturgical Use:
As a hymn of testimony to God's covenant faithfulness; weddings; funerals.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

William Marion Runyan (b. Marion, NY, 1870; d. Pittsburg, KS, 1957) composed FAITHFULNESS for Chisholm's text in Baldwin, Kansas, in 1923. Twenty years later Runyan wrote:

Mr. Chisholm and I were devoted co-workers, and I wrote harmonies to some 20 or 25 of his poems. This particular poem held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carryover its message in a worthy way, and the subsequent history of its use indicates that God answers prayer.

Showing early musical promise, Runyan was a substitute church organist by the age of twelve. He became a Methodist minister in 1891 and served several churches in Kansas but turned to evangelism in 1903; he worked for the Central Methodist Conference for the next twenty years. Following that service, Runyan became pastor at the Federated Church at John Brown University, Sulphur Springs [sic: Siloam Springs], Arkansas. Editor of Christian Workers Magazine, he also served the Moody Bible Institute and was an editor for Hope Publishing Company until his retirement in 1948. Runyan wrote a number of hymn texts, gospel songs, and hymn tunes.

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" became an unofficial school hymn at Moody Bible Institute, and it was featured in the Billy Graham crusades in England in 1954. Thus it obtained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sing this distinguished gospel music in harmony at a moderate pace.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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