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Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Song in Praise of God’s Word

In Balthasar Hübmaier: the Leader of the Anabaptists (New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905, p. 311ff.), Henry Clay Vedder (1853-1935) includes what he called “A Forgotten Hymn of Hübmaier’s.”  In his source, this hymn is titled “Ein preiss lied göttlichs worts,” or “A Song in Praise of God’s Word.” The hymn is 18 stanzas, and each stanza in English ends with the line “God’s word stands sure for ever” (the German original “Dann Gottes wort bleybt ewig stan” is the next to last line in each stanza). It speaks of several Old Testament patriarchs, beginning with Adam, as well as New Testaments writers. It urges “blind man” to make his calling and election sure, all the time emphasizing Jesus Christ and his word. The meter is 8s.7s.D., but has never been set to music, so far as I know. Perhaps it might work with Ein Feste Burg. I only included the English translation of the hymn, and not the original. Vedder says the metrical translation is an attempt “to follow the original as closely as the exigencies of English versification would admit.” He, however, does not indicate who made the translation. All below comes from Vedder’s book, pages 311-321.

Much of the earliest Anabaptist literature is in the form of hymns, often crude in expression and halting in metre, but full of spiritual fervour. It would be surprising if so fertile a writer as Hübmaier had contributed nothing to this sort of literature; and still stranger, if he did write hymns, that none of them should be preserved. As a matter of fact, several of the old Anabaptist documents contain a hymn that is attributed to Hübmaier. It is not unknown, being printed in full, but anonymously, in Wackernagel’s great collection,1 vol. iii., p. 126 sq. The title there given is, “Ein preiss lied göttlichs worts” (A song in praise of God’s word). As to the authorship, the editor contents himself with remarking that the hymn has been attributed without satisfactory reason to Erasmus Alber. Beck, Hoschek, and Loserth agree that the hymn is undoubtedly Hübmaier’s. The text is herewith reprinted from Wackernagel, with a metrical translation, in which the attempt has been made to follow the original as closely as the exigencies of English versification would admit—at any rate, to represent fairly the spirit of the original.

1. Das Deutsche Kirchenlied, three vols., Leipzig, 1870.

1. Rejoice, rejoice, ye Christians all,
And break forth into singing!
Since far and wide on every side
The word of God is ringing.
And well we know, no human foe
Our souls from Christ can sever;
For to the base, and men of grace,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

2. O Adam, Adam, first of men,
What future did fate send you?
After your fall in Paradise
How did your God befriend you?
His holy word from him you heard,
That word which faileth never,
To tend’rest age, to hoary sage,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

3. O Noah, Noah, man of God,
Thy God hath thee selected
And sworn to thee an oath, since thou
His word hast not rejected:
“With flood again to drown all men
My wrath shall hasten never”;
To swollen pelf, to want itself, [pelf is wealth]
God’s word stands sure for ever.

4. And Abraham believed his God,
And so, for his devotion,
His faith became his righteousness,
His seed like sands of ocean.
Thus has God done for every one,
Who trust him perish never;
To every one who builds thereon
God’s word stands sure for ever.

5. And Lot, devout, God-fearing man,
Two angels came to find him,
And lead him out from Sodom safe,
Nor should he look behind him.
God’s fiery flood therein withstood
No living thing whatever;
All men, like Lot, must pay their scot,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

6. O David, David, king and lord,
A man of God’s own choosing,
God’s truth he hid within his heart
Beyond all fear of losing.
From David’s seed Christ should proceed,
He swore who changeth never;
In heaven and on earth the same
God’s word stands sure for ever.

7. Jesus the Christ, of Mary born
And of the Holy Spirit,
What all the prophets promisèd
We shall in him inherit.
“Hear him,” the call of God to all,
To save us his endeavour;
To him all praise and honour raise—
God’s word stands sure for ever.

8. Now hear, now hear, and mark with care
What else for us is written,
And learn from his new Covenant
What more to do we’re bidden.
And what of old has been foretold
Of Christ our Lord and Saviour;
To latest hour, in vaster power,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

9. Matthew, the first evangelist,
From Roman service taken,
Has now become chief counsellor
And has his sins forsaken;
Hears Jesus call, who says to all,
“Follow with best endeavour.”
In ample fame, always the same,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

10. And Mark, yes, Mark, the second is,
And richly he has taught us
The knowledge of that mighty power
Wherewith our Lord has brought us
To faith in God, to which is owed
All goodness whatsoever;
For all men’s tears, for all men’s jeers,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

11. Luke also follows in the train
And tells the gospel story:
The wondrous works of Christ, and how
From heaven the God of glory
To men undone has sent his Son
That men might perish never;
Believe we must, or bite the dust,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

12. And John, the fourth evangelist,
A youth of wondrous beauty,
Reveals to us the Word divine
And teaches us our duty.
With faith and love your calling prove
And seek no other lever;
It gives no aid to hoe or spade,
But God’s word stands for ever.

13. And Saul, God’s chosen vessel he,
His early sin repented:
He stormed and strove against the saints
As if he were demented.
In vain the age ‘gainst us shall rage,
Our souls from Christ to sever;
In time of ill our stronghold still,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

14. O Paul, O Paul, what fruit of all
Thy writings in their season!
The truth thou hast declared shall stand
Against all human reason.
Sin is o’erthrown by faith alone,
And, though the great and clever
Were all employed to make it void,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

15. And Peter, Jude, and James, all three
Do follow in this teaching;
Repentance and confession they
Through Christ our Lord are preaching
In him men must put all their trust,
Or they shall see God never;
The wolf may tear, the lion, bear,—
God’s word stands sure for ever.

16. Ah, man, blind man, now hear the word,
Make sure your state and calling;
Believe the Scripture is the power
By which we’re kept from falling.
Your valued lore at once give o’er,
Renounce your vain endeavour;
This shows the way, no longer stray,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

17. O Jesus Christ, thou Son of God,
Let us not lack thy favour,
For what shall be our just reward
If the salt shall lose its savour?
With angry flame to efface thy name
In vain shall men endeavour;
Not for a day, the same for aye,
God’s word stands sure for ever.

18. Praise God, praise God in unity,
Ye Christian people sweetly,
That he his word has spread abroad—
His word, his work completely.
No human hand can him withstand,
No name how high soever;
And sing we then our glad Amen!
God’s word stands sure for ever.

Balthasar Hübmaier, “A Song in Praise of God’s Word”

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