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The words to this stirring hymn were written in 1907 by Henry van Dyke while on a preaching mission to Williams College in the state of Massachusetts in America. He was a guest in the home of the college president. Coming down to breakfast one morning, he placed a manuscript on the table and said to his host, “Here is a hymn for you. Your mountains were my inspiration. It must be sung to the music of Beethoven’s ‘Hymn to Joy.’” Van Dyke (1852-1933) was one of the most distinguished literary men of his generation. He pastored Congregational and Presbyterian churches and gained a wide reputation as a powerful preacher. He taught at prominent universities in America and Europe, became the moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1902, and as a close friend of United States President Woodrow Wilson, he was appointed as a government minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1913. His fame rested solidly on the books he wrote, the most successful of which was The Other Wise Man.
Ludwig van Beethoven never wrote a hymn tune as such, but several hymns have been adapted from his larger works. The melody for Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee comes from the glorious final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, written in 1824. In 1846 Edward Hodges adapted it for use as a hymn.
Alternate Opening Hymn: The Lord in Zion Reigneth
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) is the author of the words to this majestic hymn, an inspiring congregational hymn of praise. She was blind from six weeks of age onward, but her poems, set to music, have brought hope and inspiration to countless Christians. She wrote at least 9000 hymns, and her work is well represented in Seventh-day Adventist hymn books.
The music to this hymn was composed by Hart Pease Danks (1834-1903). He was a carpenter, but he had a strong interest in music. He wrote more than 1,000 songs appealing to popular taste. As a young boy he was a soprano, and later he became a singer and choir conductor in Chicago.
The first publication of “The Lord in Zion Reigneth” was in the Seventh-day Adventist songbook Hymns and Tunes (1886), which James Edson White produced. He was the second son of James and Ellen G. White.
(SDAH 206, CH 545)
Grant Colfax Tullar (1869-1950) was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church and a public evangelist. While assisting in some evangelistic meetings, he wrote the words and music to a gospel song, but he was dissatisfied with the words. After deciding that he should revise them, in the next morning’s mail he found several poems from Carrie Ellis Breck (1855-1934), a Presbyterian woman who wrote verse for religious periodicals, including about 1,500 hymns. One of the poems she sent to Tullar, “Face to Face,” was in the exact meter of the song he had composed. So he set the words to his music, and they have been together ever since.
Adapted from Wayne Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988).
SDAH = Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal
CH = Church Hymnal