Doxology | My Song is Love Unknown

Doxology | My Song is Love Unknown

Liturgy Lesson: February 9, 2020
Call to Worship: Psalm 81:1-3, 8-10, 16 and Psalm 63:1-4
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (#53)
Confession: James 2:1-5 and prayer
Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 57:15, 18-19 and 1 Peter 2:24
Hymn of Assurance: Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me
Reading of the Word: Luke 14:7-11
Doxology: #733
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: My Song is Love Unknown; My Shepherd Will Supply
Closing Hymn: All Glory Be to Christ
Doxology (“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”)
Text: Thomas Ken(1709)
Tune: Lasst Uns Erfreuen, based on 17th century German Folk Melody

The word “doxology” comes from two separate Greek words meaning “glory” and “saying.” Literally, it means “to speak praise.” Certain passages in Scripture are often considered short hymns or doxologies. For example…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 1:3)

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whole no has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Tim. 6:16)

In our church tradition the doxology is Trinitarian. If you spend much time with a Christian hymnal, you will encounter numerous “doxological” final verses to the hymns. These frequently give praise to each member of the Trinity. One of the finest examples of this practice is from the greatest hymn writer of the early church, St. Ambrose. Here is how he finishes his great hymn “Splendor of God’s Glory Bright:”

All praise to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore.

There are countless other doxologies throughout church history, but the one that we sing every Sunday, the one that begins with “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” is now a standard doxology in the modern English-speaking churches of the west. This text was written by Thomas Ken, who was an Anglican Bishop in the late 17th century. Ken spent much of his life in Winchester, serving both the Cathedral and the College, and was committed to enriching the spiritual lives of his students. In 1674 he published A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College. In this manual he encouraged his readers to “be sure to sing the Morning and Evening Hymn in your chamber devoutly.” Contained in the collection of hymns were three that shared the same ending. The hymns entitled “Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun,” “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night,” and “My God, I Now from Sleep Awake” all began the final stanza with the same words: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”. This “doxology” we sing today was the closing stanza for each of these three hymns. In a later edition, Ken changed “Praise him above y’Angelick Host” to “Praise him above, ye heavenly host,” and the final form was cemented. Here is his entire “Morning Hymn.” It is one of my favorites to read in its entirety before I start my daily work.

Awake, my soul! and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Wake and lift up thyself, my heart;
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee who safe has kept.
And hast refreshed me while I slept:
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake,
I may of endless life partake.

Lord! I my vows to thee renew:
Scatter my sins as morning dew;
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest this day
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In thy sole glory may unite.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow:
Praise Him, all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thomas Ken was very familiar with the scriptures, and he distilled many of these verses into these four simple lines of text. Here are a few of the references for each line of our doxology.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Ps 21:3, 6; 128:4–5; Eph 1:3; Jas 1:17

Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Ps 148:7–13;103:22; 109:30; 150:3–6; Phil 2:10.

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Ps 148:1–6, 13; 103:20–22; 150:1; Rev 5:14; 7:11: 19:4–5; Phil 2:10.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Father: Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21; Phil 1:11
Son: Matt 21:16; Rom 9:5; Eph 1:12; 1 Peter 1:7
Spirit: John 4:24; Eph 1:13–14
Triune God: Matt 28:19; Genesis 1 in light of John 1:1–3, 9–10, 14

This doxology is set to many tunes, the most famous being “Old 100th.” Others are “Duke Street,” “Lasst uns erfreuen,” and “The Eighth Tune” by Thomas Tallis. My personal favorite is “Lasst uns erfreuen,” the one we are using for this Sunday. “Duke Street” would come in a close second.

My Song is Love Unknown
Text: Samuel Crossman (1664)
Tune: ST. JOHN, John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905)

This great hymn is one that I did not know before coming to CPC. It is, unfortunately, not that well-known outside of reformed circles, and does not appear in many hymnals. I am grateful to have come across it, and have grown to love it more and more as the years go by. Guess you could say that “I Love this Song Unknown.” The hymn is testimonial and evangelical at heart. It has a poignant tenderness and intimacy. The singer recounts the deep affection he has for Jesus, and specifically gives a grateful response to the love that Christ displayed on the cross. It really is a deeply expressive and affecting hymn.

In Galatians 6:14, Paul passionately states “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” This prayer is the root of this exquisite meditation on the suffering Savior by the aptly named Samuel Crossman in 1664. It is very similar in tone and style to the mystical poetry of George Herbert. In seven devotional and heartfelt verses, Crossman beautifully illuminates the love of Christ. The first verse contains the simple and sublime statement that Christ is “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.” In the next five verses Crossman ruminates on the rejected and despised Jesus, asking “why, what hath my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?” He then declares the truth that Christ “willing to suffering goes, that he his foes from thence might free.” And then, in a tender benediction, Crossman gives us one of the greatest final verses in all of hymnody.

Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine;
Never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine.
This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend!

On Sunday, we will take Crossman’s advice and linger to honor the man on the Cross. In our actions we will upgrade the phrase ‘might stay’ to a definitive. Here we will stay and sing. This is beautiful and right. We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). We give ourselves to him because He gave himself for us (Eph. 5:25). We sing because He sings over us (Zeph. 3:17). It is all just so apt and fitting. Isaac Watts reminds us, the only appropriate response to “Love so amazing, so divine” is to offer up “my life, my love, my all.” This Jesus, this “love to the loveless shown,” He is our great Friend, in whose presence and sweet praise we will gladly spend all our days.

Sheet music
Recording from Faith Presbyterian Tacoma