"Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!" Psalm 103:1. This is the familiar opening verse of Psalm 103, a Psalm of David, which was the inspiration for the writing of this week's hymn. The words were penned by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) in 1834. Lyte was educated at Portora (the Royal School of Enniskillen), and at Trinity College, Dublin. During his studies he distinguished himself by gaining the English prize poem on three occasions. He had intended studying medicine, but he abandoned this for theology, and he took Holy Orders in 1815. In 1817, he moved to Marazion, in Cornwall, where, in 1818, he underwent a great spiritual change as a result of the illness and death of a brother clergyman. Lyte says of him, "He died happy under the belief that though he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his delinquencies, and be accepted for all that he had incurred." And concerning himself he shared, "I was greatly affected by the whole matter, and brought to look at life and its issue with a different eye than before; and I began to study my Bible, and preach in another manner than I had previously done." He wrote "Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven" for his congregation at Lower Brixham in Devon, England. Based on Psalm 103, Lyte succinctly states the psalm's main points: "Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies" (v. 3-4) become "ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven." And enlarging on the palmist's declaration that God is slow to anger and will not always chide (v. 8-9), Lyte declares, "Slow to chide and swift to bless." In his refrain, Lyte picked up on the primary theme of the Psalm: "Praise Him, praise Him." Today, some hymnals have changed these words to "Alleluia!" But either refrain fittingly calls us to join with all creation in praise of the King. Queen Elizabeth II chose this hymn to be sung as the processional at her wedding which was on November 20, 1947, exactly one hundred years after the death of Henry Francis Lyte. Several tunes are used for this hymn and there are two familiar ones listed below. The tune, written by Sr. John Goss in 1869 specifically for this hymn, is the one most commonly used. There have also been several other verses and variations of the words over the years, but the ones shared below are frequently used today. So, as you approach this Thanksgiving season, let this hymn be a reminder of what the Lord has done for us as you thank and praise Him. Allelujah, allelujah, praise the everlasting King!
1 Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet your tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me, His praises sing?
Praise the everlasting King!
2 Praise him for his grace and favor
to his people in distress.
Praise him, still the same as ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in his faithfulness!
3 Fatherlike he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows!
4 Angels in the height adore Him,
Ye behold Him face to face;
Saints triumphant, bow before Him,
Gathered in from every race.
Praise with us the God of grace!
Here are two different versions of this hymn. The first is one tune sung by a choir. LISTEN 1
The second is a different version done by the Gathers and Signature Sound. LISTEN 2