Keeping the Hymns Close By

Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

Author – Johann J. Schütz,  1640 – 1690
English Translation – Frances E. Cox, 1812 – 1897
Music – From the Bohemian Brethren’s Hymnal Kirchengesange of 1566

The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof… The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory.  Psalm 97:1,6

Evangelist Vance Havner once said, “When I was a boy, preachers used to talk about ‘holding a revival.’ What we really need is somebody who will turn a revival loose.” Well, that’s what Philip J. Spener (1635 – 1705), did in Germany spurred on by his friend and attorney, Johann Jakob Schütz.

Years before, Martin Luther established the Protestant Reformation, and the early Lutherans were firebrands of holy zeal. But a generation later, the movement had lost its steam. By the 1600s, church life tended to be formal and shallow. The doctrine was correct but cold. That’s when Philip Spener accepted the call to pastor a church in Frankfort Main. Rather than preaching from the prescribed texts, he began preaching through the entire Bible, calling for repentance and serious discipleship. In 1669, as he preached from the Sermon on the Mount, revival broke out in the church. People were converted, lives changed, families transformed.

No one was more excited than Johann Scühtz, a lifelong resident of Frankfurt and a prominent city attorney. He suggested Spener take some of these converts and disciple them in small, home prayer and Bible study groups. Spener did so, and it became the talk of the town. Spener taught them the meaning of inner personal faith in Christ and the demands that such faith makes upon the believer for holy Christian living. The revival spread through Germany and is known to history as the “Pietistic Movement.”

Out of his joy for what was happening, Johann Schütz wrote a hymn in 1675:

Sing praise to God Who reigns above, the God of all creation,
The God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul is filled and every faithless murmer stilled:
To God all praise and glory.

Schütz died in Frankfort at age 49, on May 22, 1690. But his hymn lives on. It was first published in the United States in 1879, where it appeared in Hymnbook for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Schools and Congregations. It is sung to a traditional Bohemian melody named “Kirchengesange.”

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition  by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Taken from 101 More Hymn Stories Copyright © 1985, 2013 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.