1 God of the ages, whose almighty hand
leads forth in beauty all the starry band
of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
our grateful songs before thy throne arise.
2 Thy love divine hath led us in the past;
in this free land with thee our lot is cast;
be thou our ruler, guardian, guide, and stay,
thy Word our law, thy paths our chosen way.
3 From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence,
be thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
thy true religion in our hearts increase;
thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
4 Refresh thy people on their toilsome way;
lead us from night to never-ending day;
fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
and glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989
|First Line:||God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand|
|Title:||God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand|
|Author:||Daniel C. Roberts (1876)|
|Liturgical Use:||Prayer Songs|
st. 3 = Ps. 46:1
Daniel C. Roberts (b. Bridgehampton, Long Island, NY, 1841; d. Concord, NH, 1907) wrote this patriotic hymn in 1876 for July 4 centennial celebrations in Brandon, Vermont, where he was rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Originally entitled "God of Our Fathers," this text was later chosen as the theme hymn for the centennial celebration of the adoption of the United States Constitution. It was published in the Protestant Episcopal Hymnal of 1892.
Educated at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, Roberts served in the union army during the Civil War. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest in 1866 and ministered to several congregations in Vermont and Massachusetts. In 1878 he began a ministry at St. Paul Church in Concord, New Hampshire, that lasted for twenty-three years. For many years president of the New Hampshire State Historical Society, Roberts once wrote, "I remain a country parson, known only within my small world," but his hymn "God of Our Fathers" brought him widespread recognition.
Unlike many other nationalist hymns, this text keeps our focus on God. This is a Go who created the universe, who leads and governs his people, who serves as our protector, and who refreshes his people with divine love. Presumably the text referred originally to white Anglo-Saxons, but in its present form it is fitting for all citizens and residents of any country. Christians too may sing this anthem, using it to recognize the national association we have on earth but remembering that the practice of "true religion" (st. 3) transcends earthly loyalties and promotes citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.
Worship that focuses on God's reign over the nations; civic celebrations.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987
The year 1876 was the centennial of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, which was the occasion for which this text was written. Daniel C. Roberts, an Episcopalian rector in Vermont, was the author. It was first sung in St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Brandon, Vermont, to the tune RUSSIAN HYMN. Roberts submitted his text to the revision of the hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1892, where it was first published.
This hymn has four stanzas. The only notable alteration made to this text is that sometimes the opening line is changed from “God of Our Fathers” to “God of the Ages” for gender inclusivity.
NATIONAL HYMN, the tune to which this text is sung, was written by George W. Warren in 1892. It was first published in Arthur H. Messiter's The Hymnal Revised and Enlarged in 1893. One popular feature of this tune is the trumpet fanfares at the beginning of each short phrase. In the original publication of this tune, the first phrase was indicated “Voices alone,” with the organ joining after the second fanfare. This hymn should be sung in harmony at a moderately slow tempo, with full accompaniment.
This hymn is usually treated as an American patriotic hymn, which it was originally intended to be. In this use, it is sometimes combined with other patriotic hymns, such as in “Patriot’s Medley” for brass sextet, which combines “God of the Ages,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” However, this text is not inherently American, so it can also be used by any nation as a prayer for God’s guidance. “God of All Ages, Whose Almighty Hand” is a choral setting in which the standard opening fanfare is expanded to include the choir and is repeated at the end. Brass and percussion are optional, but with this hymn, the trumpets are expected on the fanfares. This setting is also included in the global prayer service “Prayers for the Nations.” A simpler way to augment this grand hymn tune is with a brass quartet setting of “NATIONAL HYMN” that is designed to complement the standard hymnal setting for congregational singing.
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org