"Keeping the Hymns Close By"

How Great Thou Art


English Words by Stuart K. Hine 1899-1989
Music Arrangement by Stuart K. Hine and Manna Music of Swedish Folk Melody

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. Psalm 145:3

This is a twentieth century hymn of praise. Its popularity is due in large part to its wide use by favorite gospel singers, notably George Beverly Shea. Although introduced to American audiences when James Caldwell sang "How Great Thou Art" at Stony Brook Bible Conference on Long Island in 1952, it was not until Cliff Barrows and Bev Shea of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team used it during the famed London Crusade in Harringay Arena that "How Great Thou Art" started to become universally well-known.

The original Swedish text was a poem entitled "O Store Gud" (O Great God) written by a Swedish pastor, Carl Boberg, in 1886. His inspiration for this text is said to have come from a visit to a beautiful country estate on the southeast coast of Sweden. He was suddenly caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence, followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees. The experience prompted the pastor to fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God. He penned his exaltation in a nine-stanza poem. Several years later Boberg was attending a meeting in the Province of Varmland and was surprised to hear the congregation sing his poem to the tune of an old Swedish melody.

It is thought that soon after Boberg's version, the text was translated into German and in 1927 it was translated into the Russian language. In 1933 Rev. S.K.Hine and his wife, English missionaries, were ministering to the people of the Ukraine. It was there they learned the Russian translation from a congregation of Ukrainians. The thought of writing original English lyrics to this song did not occur to them until they were in Sub-Carpathian Russia, where the mountain scenery was to play its part. The thoughts of the first three verses in English were born, line upon line, amid unforgettable experiences in the Carpathian mountains. Thus, inspired partially by the Russian words, partially by the awesome wonder at the sight of "all the works Thy hand hath made", the thoughts of the first two verses sprang into life in English. As Reverend Hine and his wife continued their evangelizing in the Carpathian mountains and distribution of gospels in village after village, verse three came into being.

When war broke out in 1939, it was necessary for the Hines' to return to Britain where they continued gospel campaigns throughout Great Britian. The fourth verse did not come until after the war. The hymn took 14 years to complete.

The tune for this hymn is an arrangement of an old Swedish folk melody.. With his original English lyrics and his arrangement of this tune, Stuart K. Hine published what we know today as the hymn "How Great Thou Art" in his gospel magazine Grace and Peace on April 15, 1949. .


Taken from 101 Hymn Stories Copyright © 1982, 2012 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.






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