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594. God Is Working His Purpose Out

1 God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

2 From utmost east to utmost west,
where'er the church has gone,
by the mouth of many messengers
the call of God has come:
Give ear to me, you continents;
you isles, give ear to me,
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

3 March we forth in the strength of God,
with the banner of Christ unfurled,
that the light of the glorious gospel of truth
may shine throughout the world:
fight we the fight with sorrow and sin
to set their captives free,
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

4 All we can do is done in vain
unless God blesses the deed;
vainly we hope for the harvesttide
till God gives life to the seed;
yet nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

Text Information
First Line: God is working his purpose out
Title: God Is Working His Purpose Out
Author: Arthur Campbell Ainger (1894)
Meter: irregular
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ;
Topic: Industry & Labor; Invitation; Return of Christ (3 more...)
Tune Information
Composer: Martin Fallas Shaw (1931)
Meter: irregular
Key: f minor
Copyright: By permission of Oxford University Press

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 2 = Isa. 42:4
st. 4 = Ps. 127:1-2
ref. = Isa. 11:6-9

In 1894 Arthur C. Ainger (b. Blackheath, England, 1841; d. Eton, England, 1919) wrote the text in five irregular stanzas for use by the boys at Eton College, where Ainger was a popular schoolmaster from 1864-1901. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, Ainger wrote numerous songs and hymns for use at Eton.

Dedicated to Edward W. Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, the text was first issued as a leaflet and then published in the Hymn Book of the Church Missionary Society (1899). The Psalter Hymnal includes the original stanzas 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Broadly defined as a missions hymn, this text is united by the closing biblical line of each stanza (similar to a refrain): "when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea." "God Is Working" provides a clear testimony that God is the Lord of history, that he "is working his purposes out" (st. 1) even when we cannot fathom his ways. But it also presents a challenge: to press the cause of Christ through¬out the whole world (st. 2), to let the gospel of Christ set free those who are captive to sin and sorrow (st. 3), and to make sure our deeds are worthy of God's blessing (st. 4).

The entire text affirms the passage from Philippians 2 (12-13), where we are commanded to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in YOU to will and to act according to his good purpose."

Liturgical Use:
As a hymn of divine sovereignty and providence; worship that emphasizes the public task or kingdom work of Christians in the world.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Written by English composer Martin F. Shaw (PHH 49) for this text, PURPOSE was published in the 1931 edition of Songs of Praise. This is the tune usually sung to Ainger's text in North America. In Britain, however, Millicent Kingham's BENSON is the preferred setting.

PURPOSE is a vigorous tune that suggests the folk idiom that Shaw loved so dearly. As indicated in the small print, the setting is canonic. Erik Routley (PHH 31) stated that this tune was "the best canon in hymnody since that of Tallis" (see 441). However, PURPOSE is not a strict canon; the full measure at the end of page 2 is condensed to two beats in the following measure, which is why the canon part had to be notated. Because of the tune's irregular meter, sing the first two stanzas in unison, but then sing stanzas 3 and 4 in canon between women and men's voices. Or, because of the tricky rhythmic change between the two parts, try having the congregation sing the first part and the choir the second part. Use trumpet and trombone accompaniment for added support. The entire hymn requires singing in long lines (lots of breath!) and a marcato articulation on the organ.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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GOD IS WORKING HIS PURPOSE OUT (The Worshiping Church 750)
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