This afternoon I have watched the excellent programme Songs of Praise on BBC. Inspired by it I have decided to share with you here one of the most beautiful Christian hymns ever composed in Britain. Here is a little bit about the history of this hymn, followed by the lyrics.
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Henry Francis Lyte wrote “Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven” for his congregation at Lower Brixham in Devon, England. The hymn was first published in 1834, among a collection of three hundred hymns entitled “Spirit of the Psalms.”
Unlike translations of the Psalms-commonly used in Psalters of that time-or paraphrases like those written by Isaac Watts, “Spirit of the Psalms” contained hymns that were simply inspired by the Psalms. A part of this collection, “Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven” captured the “spirit” of Psalm 103.
In the hymn, Lyte succinctly states each of the psalm’s points: “Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies” (v. 3-4) become “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.” And enlarging on the palmist’s declaration that God is slow to anger and will not always chide (v. 8-9), Lyte declares, “Slow to chide and swift to bless.”
In his refrain, Lyte picked up on the primary theme of the Psalm: “Praise Him, praise him.” Today, some hymnals have changed these words to “Alleluia!” But either refrain fittingly calls us to join with all creation in praise of the King.
Queen Elizabeth II chose this hymn to be sung as the processional at her wedding. Interestingly, this was on November 20, 1947, exactly one hundred years after the death of Henry Francis Lyte.
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Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
To his feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me his praise should sing?
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise him for his grace and favour
To our fathers in distress;
Praise him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless:
Glorious in his faithfulness.
Father-like, he tends and spares us,
Well our feeble frame he knows;
In his hands he gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes:
Widely as his mercy flows.
Angels, help us to adore him;
Ye behold him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
Dwellers all in time and space:
Praise with us the God of grace.