Today’s hymn was written by a very busy man. Sir Robert Grant was born in India in 1779, and his father, Charles Grant, at that time was director of the East India Company. Charles and his family were also members of what was called the Clapham Sect, an evangelical off-shoot of the Church of England dedicated to social issues such as the abolishment of slavery.
Robert and his older brother Charles attended Magdalene College in Cambridge and both received their law degrees on the same day in January of 1807. Robert was elected to serve in Parliament the following year, an office he held for several more years.
He and Charles both worked with William Wilberforce, another member of the Clapham Sect serving in Parliament, to abolish slavery. Another notable accomplishment of Robert’s was passage of a law in 1830 emancipating the Jews of England. A similar bill had passed the year before granting more freedom and rights to Roman Catholics.
In addition to his busy political career, which included the governorship of Bombay in 1834, Sir Robert was a missions supporter. He also wrote sacred poems, twelve of them published in a volume called Sacred Poems by his brother Charles following his death. The one having the most lasting impact over the years is today’s hymn, O Worship The King, penned after Robert read a translation of Psalm 104 in a psalm book:
O Worship the King all glorious above!
O gratefully sing His power and His love,
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
O tell of His might, O sing of His grace;
Whose robe if the light, whose canopy space;
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, and find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender! How firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend.
The eloquence and impact of the hymn was described by Kenneth W. Osbeck in his book 101 Hymn Stories:
It has often been called a model hymn for worship. It has few equals in expressive lyrics in the exaltation of the Almighty. Each of the epithets applied to God – King, Shield, Defender, Ancient of Days, Maker, Redeemer, Friend – as well as the vivid imagery – such as, “His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form” and the references to His attributes – power, might, grace, bountiful care, love – all combine to describe with literary eloquence and spiritual warmth the majesty and praise-worthiness of our God.
Robert’s life and work especially impacted India, where it was said the people greatly loved him – honoring him with a medical college named in his honor. As Governor of Bombay he worked tirelessly to address the needs of the poor and destitute. Sir Robert Grant died in his beloved India on July 9, 1838.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.