Week 6: Common Meter Variants



Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds

Text: Henry Hallam Tweedy (1868–1953), 1929

Tune: Traditional English, 1708

  1. Although explicitly written as a “missionary hymn”, the text is really applicable to all Christians everywhere. What does this hymn teach you about how to share the gospel in your own personal life?

    • Verse 1: there are no racial or other divisions in God – we are all heirs of Christ (see Galatians 3:28-29)
    • Verse 2: the potential for love exists in every heart, there is no one beyond hope. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit, not us, that changes hearts and brings peace.
    • Verse 3: as God gave us our minds and intellect, education and teaching are necessary parts of evangelism. A truly living faith must be an informed faith that guides everything we do.
    • Verse 4: God is revealed not just in the beauty of nature, but in our own creations as well. As Christians, our lives should be made beautiful in every way, beyond pure aesthetics.
    • Verse 5: to truly spread the gospel, we must live as Christ lived and follow his example in everything we do.
      • “Till Christ has formed in all mankind” – are we forming Him in our lives, or is He forming us?
  2. While Forest Green is a popular tune for this hymn, it’s by no means the only choice and many hymnals use other tunes instead. Do you think this tune is a good fit for the text? Why or why not? What about the tune Materna (usually seen with “O Beautiful For Spacious Skies”)?

    • Forest Green is an upbeat tune that retains much of its “folk” feel.
      • The text too is upbeat, looking forward to Christ bringing about his church on earth.
      • The consistent beat has a “strolling” feel to it, as if we were walking out to spread the Good News.
      • On the other hand, maybe the tune is too sickly sweet for a text that talks about “greed and hate”, “gloom of error’s night”, and “sinfulness that shuts our hearts”
    • Materna was originally written for a text “O Mother, Dear Jerusalem”
      • These days, of course, it’s really only seen in a patriotic context for parades, etc.
      • This tune would lend a more majestic feel to the text, if people can forget the usual “America” words.
      • But perhaps the patriotic overtones are too much for it to be truly effective.
    • There are many other tune choices besides these, one of which is Ellacombe – interesting because of its use for both and texts (see “Hail To The Lord’s Anointed”).

Hail To The Lord’s Anointed

Text: James Montgomery (1771–1854), 1821

Tune: Traditional German, 1784

  1. Isaac Watts is generally credited with opening the door to psalm “paraphrases” rather than the strict translations in use at the time. Montgomery’s paraphrase, however, is far looser than any of Watts’ (including his own paraphrase of Psalm 72, “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun”). Read the text of Psalm 72. Do you think Montgomery strayed too far from the scripture?

    • Verse 1:
      • “Great David’s greater son”, Psalm 72:1 (“royal son”)
      • “break oppression”, Psalm 72:4 (“crush the oppressor”)
      • “rule in equity”, Psalm 72:2 (“may he judge … with justice”)
    • Verse 2:
      • The word “succor” means “aid”, “assistance”, or “support”
      • “to help the poor and needy”, Psalm 72:12-13
      • “precious in his sight”, Psalm 72:14 (“precious is their blood in his sight”)
    • Verse 3:
    • Verse 4:
  2. Three verses of the original text, which are usually omitted from hymnals, mention nations from around the world paying tribute to Christ. How do they compare to the “missionary” lessons of “Eternal God”? Do you think hymnal editors are right to exclude them?

    • Montgomery’s childhood with missionary parents and his later advocacy for mission work undoubtedly informed his focus on the global nature of Christ’s kingdom
    • The biblical basis for these verses is in Psalm 72:8-11
    • Montgomery’s verses tell us that all nations will come to Christ; Tweedy’s verses tell us how
    • The references in the text are a little stereotypical and not at all “politically correct”
      • “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” is a similar text written two years earlier that has suffered much the same fate today


The hymn “Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds” is written in common meter doubled (CMD, or, exactly the same as common meter but with two verses combined into one. “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”, on the other hand, drops a syllable in the first and third lines to make it



  1. Ignoring rhyme, rewrite the first two lines of “Eternal God” to fit the pattern:

  2. Now use the same meter to write two lines about one of the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). If you like, you can use your common meter exercise from last week as a starting point.