Hymn History: Great Is Thy Faithfulness October 26, 2022

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:22-24

Thomas Chisholm was born near Franklin, KY, in 1866. He spent his youth working on a farm and teaching at the local schools. He then spent five years as editor of the local paper at Franklin. During this time, he would  frequently contribute to the Louisville Courier-Journal, and was chosen as a poet for the Kentucky Press Association. 

However, at the age of 26, His life was forever changed. Thomas came to faith in the Lord Jesus. In 1903, he entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The wonderful gifts he had for writing and poetry pressed into service in the work of the Lord. He was a highly skilled hymnist and poet. His first hymns were sent to Fanny Crosby for comment and feedback. Crosby returned them with kind suggestions and gracious words to further encourage him in this work. 

His first successful hymn was “O, to be like Thee.” “His aim…” wrote contemporary hymn-writer Charles Gabriel, “…in writing is to magnify the Word, incorporating as much Scripture, either literally or in paraphrase, as possible, and to avoid any flippant or sentimental themes, choosing subjects from the inexhaustible storehouse of the Bible.” This is a model that we would do well to remember as we seek to glorify the Lord through song.

He believed that God had allowed certain difficulties in His life for the glory of God and the good of others. Chisholm’s words encourage us: “Having been led, for a part of my life, through some difficult paths, I have sought to gather from such experiences material out of which to write hymns of comfort and cheer for those similarly circumstanced.” No doubt this is the same heart that gave us the marvelous hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness (1923). From his own personal hardships and the perfect truth of God’s Word spring forth the mighty truths of this great hymn. 

Ultimately, Chisholm was forced to leave the ministry and to work as an insurance salesman for several years, due to his poor health. However, during these years and into his retirement, his love for encouraging hymns and poems never abated. Thomas would continue writing and publishing many more hymns and poems of the faith. By most estimates, this dear saint wrote more than twelve hundred poems, more than eight hundred of which have appeared in religious periodicals, with a large portion of them being used as hymn lyrics. 

Let us all reflect upon how our faithful God uses man for His glory, in such a great way. Take time to slowly read and reflect upon these words today. 

1. Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.

(Refrain) Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

2. Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. (Refrain)

3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! (Refrain)

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  1. Nolan on December 10, 2022 at 7:17 AM

    The very words of this Hymn has continued to give me a reminder of God’s great Faithfulness to such a needful man as I. God is so good. Thank you for sharing these encouraging glimpses of Hymn history.

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