Sunday, October 14, 2012

All People That on Earth Do Dwell (Old 100th)

For the believer, praising God is as natural and as vital as breathing.  We praise Him for all his wonderful works (1 Chronicles 16:9; Luke 19:37); for his protection (Psalm 56:4); for His mercy (Psalm 106:1); for the countless, undeserved blessings he showers upon us; for the joy and peace he brings into our lives. As we praise God we grow in humility and in awareness of His power, His providence, and His presence in our lives and everything around us. Others see and hear our praise, the manifestation of our contentment in God, and are moved to seek Him out for themselves (Psalm 40:3).

Among the best ways to praise our Lord is in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] heart[s] to the Lord . . ." (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  And surely among the most inspiring of such hymns is All People That on Earth Do Dwell. The text calls on us to rejoice in the wonder of our own creation, in God's loving care for us, and in His goodness, mercy, and truth. We are urged to "praise, laud, and bless His Name always," just because "it is seemly so to do."
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.
According to a good capsule history of the hymn at, the text first appeared in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561 and is attributed to the Scottish clergyman and Bible translator William Kethe, (died 6 June 1594) (of whom no image is known to exist)  who had fled to Switzerland from the persecutions of Catholic Queen Mary in England.  Kethe helped with the translation of the Geneva Bible in 1560 and contributed 25 psalms to the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, which he carried with him back to England in 1561, after the restoration of Protestantism there by Mary's half-sister Queen Elizabeth I. The text is based on the short, beautiful Psalm 100:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us,
and not we ourselves;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
Be thankful unto him,  and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth
endureth to all generations.
Even more famous throughout Christendom is the music matched with Kethe's text in the 1561 Anglo-Genevan Psalter. The melody has come to be called "Old 100th" or "Old Hundredth," based on the text's paraphrase of Psalm 100. Generally attributed to the French composer Loys "Louis" Bourgeois (c.1510–1560) (also of whom no known image exists), this hymn tune first appeared in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter (although, at that time, it accompanied a paraphrase of Psalm 134). Bourgeois was the individual most responsible for the tunes in that Psalter, which--thanks in large part to William Kethe a decade later--became the source for the hymns of both the Reformed churches in England and the Pilgrims in America. Nevertheless, Bourgeois fell out with the musical authorities in Geneva and was imprisoned in 1551 for changing the tunes of some well-known psalms "without a license" (he was released only on the personal intervention of John Calvin)!

Another text widely associated with the Old 100th is Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow, which is commonly sung as a doxology (a short hymn of praises to God often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns)--in fact, traditionally referred to as The Doxology--and written in 1674 by Anglican clergyman Thomas Ken as the final verse of two companion hymns, Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun and Glory to Thee, My God, This Night:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
As demonstrated by these and other iconic pieces, traditional Christian hymnody resembles a great tapestry woven together by men and women working under God's inspiration at widely different times and places, and from diverse faith traditions, to create a priceless treasure that moves us to give the greatest thanks and praise to God!

All People That on Earth Do Dwell was sung at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, with harmonization and arrangement by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This version was sung again at the National Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty at St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday, 5th June 2012 (among other prominent figures you'll see in the congregation are Prime Minister David Cameron (at 0:53) and Queen Elizabeth; Charles, the Prince of Wales; and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwal) (at 1:06):

And now for something completely different: an absolutely stunning a capella rendition by by the Christian group The Martins (this is my favorite!):

Try this: memorize the text and learn the tune by heart, and then sing this to yourself (or even out loud) ever morning before going to work or school. It's guaranteed to send your spirit soaring, and put you in most humble, thankful, and confident frame of mind!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

~ Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)


  1. What a contrast in arrangements: the magnificent and stately choral version by Vaughan Williams (and in such a glorious setting!), and the simpler, yet heartfelt, version by The Martins. They sounded like truly 'one voice', and put everything into this great hymn. Thank you for telling its story!

  2. As a former Protestant, now Catholic, I was delighted to discover this tune in a couple of different Mass settings: one is "Song of Farewell," commonly sung at Catholic funerals, and "All Hail Adored Trinity,"sung on Holy Trinity Sunday in June (Sunday after Pentecost). It brings back happy memories of Sunday mornings at my old Methodist church when we would sing the doxology to this tune.

  3. I have this song in a book circa 1889 titled "Hymns Ancient and Modern", in the General Hymns section page 223 as Hymn 166. Old Hundredth - L.M. (Second Version). Its in C#F#G#, massive sound on a digital organ and pretty good too on the piano!. All in half notes. I'm just a beginner "pianist" however this older church music and poetry is a wonderful introduction to sound, harmony and learning notation.