It used to be that Thanksgiving Day would not be complete without the singing of this traditional Dutch Hymn. In the United States, it was popularly associated with Thanksgiving Day and was often sung at family meals and at religious services on that day. It was sung as an expression of thanks to God as our defender and guide throughout the past year. However, "We Gather Together" must be understood and appreciated from its historical setting.The text was originally written by an anonymous author, at the end of the sixteenth century, to celebrate the Dutch freedom from the Spanish overlords, who had been driven from their land, and the freedom that was theirs, both politically from Spain and religiously from the Catholic Church. A number of Dutch nationalistic songs developed as a result of this patriotic emphasis and this hymn is generally considered to be the finest of these musical expressions. "We Gather Together" resonated because under the Spanish King, Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship. You can readily see the references to these historical events throughout the hymn's text: "The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing," "so from the beginning the fight we were winning," as well as the concern, in the final stanza, that God will continue to defend – "and we pray that Thou still our defender will be." It was first published in 1626 and for the next two centuries the singing of this hymn was limited to the Dutch people. The English translation of this text was made in 1893 by Theodore Baker a highly respected music researcher. "We Gather Together's" first appearance in an American hymnal was in 1903. It had retained popularity among the Dutch, and when the Dutch Reformed Church in North America decided, in 1937, to abandon the policy that they had brought with them to the New World in the 17th century of singing only psalms and add hymns to the church service, "We Gather Together" was chosen as the first hymn in the first hymnal. But while the Dutch have an historical reason for singing it, the words are still appropriate for us today. Our religious liberties may be challenged, but we still have the freedom to gather and bring our petitions to the Lord who will continue to be our Defender. Praise God that He will not abandon His children. Sing praises to His Name.
We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
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