Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

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Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love

Hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Henry Van Dyke (1907) 

THE HYMN WRITER

Henry Van Dyke was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1852 to Presbyterian minister, Henry Jackson Van Dyke Senior and his wife Henrietta. Henry was well suited for the world of academia and earned his B.A. and M.A. at Princeton College, followed by a divinity degree from Princeton Seminary. However, Van Dyke was not the perfect student and was notorious for getting into trouble during his days at the university. In his college scrapbook, he included a reward poster that offered $50 “for the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons who took the gate and damaged the fences on the Seminary and Library grounds.” In the poster’s margin, he wrote: “They didn’t catch us. -H.v.D.” (Editors from TheFamousPeople.com) 

Walking in the footsteps of his father, Van Dyke served the people of both Rhode Island and New York City as a Presbyterian minister from 1889 to 1901. “It was in this noted pulpit that Dr. Van Dyke’s rare sermonic abilities were revealed. His sermons were characterized by great freshness and vitality of style, by beauty of diction, and by breadth of view, as well as by a fearlessness in the declaration of his convictions.”(Fenner) Upon stepping down from ministry at Brick Presbyterian Church in New York, he was succeeded by pastor and hymn writer Maltbie Babcock (author of “This is my Father’s World”).

The next few decades (1899-1922) were dedicated to teaching English literature at Princeton University. President Woodrow Wilson was a former classmate and personal friend of Van Dyke and appointed him as an ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. After this, he served as a lieutenant-commander in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps during the first World War. Van Dyke was also a good friend of Helen Keller. Giving us an inside look at his character, Keller wrote: “Dr. Van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in.” (Keller) Van Dyke was so well known for his oratory ability, that he was asked to speak at Mark Twain’s funeral at Brick Presbyterian Church. In the midst of all of his busyness, Van Dyke authored over seventy books, wrote poetry, and somehow found ample time for trampling through the forest and fishing for trout in the nearby streams.

It is said that when Van Dyke wrote the hymn, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” he was deeply inspired by two things. The first was the Berkshire mountains outside of Williams College in Massachusetts where he was a guest speaker. The second was Beethoven’s 9th symphony (the tune which he insisted be paired with the words of his hymn). His son later wrote about his father’s famous work:

“It would be a pity to attempt to analyze this hymn, and I do not intend to commit that particular error. … I may, however, permit myself to make one observation on this hymn with a view to aiding us in the appreciation of its message. It is this—that the hymn celebrates a joy to be found in nature by the man who finds his first joy in living his own life in Jesus Christ. Anyone who is familiar with my father’s poetry and preaching will at once recognize that the harmony of this double note is his most characteristic accent. How often he declares that Christianity is an out-of-doors religion! How steadily he stresses the joyfulness of a life that rests upon Christ! If a man is a Christian in this simple sense of personal faith and activity, let him step out into the open air and rejoice:

“For the long breath, the deep breath, the breath of a heart without care—I will give thanks and adore thee, God of the open air!”-Henry Van Dyke

Chris Fenner – Hymnology Archive

Henry Van Dyke died at home at his Princeton estate on April 10, 1933. He is buried in Princeton Cemetery.

THOUGHTS WHILE YOU SING

The Brover’s front yard in springtime

We are blessed to have California poppies growing in our front yard. These beautiful native flowers are so fun to watch bloom in the spring and summer and grow throughout the year. One day, my son and I were making observations about them as we walked around the front yard. He noticed that they close up and “go to sleep” when the sun sets, and “wake up” and open to the sun in the morning. In this hymn, we sing that our hearts are like these flowers; that when God graciously shines on us, showing us the truth of who he is and our need for him, and then calls us to himself, our hearts have no choice but to open to him. It would be impossible for us to resist his warmth, his beauty, and the sustenance that comes from opening to and abiding in him. Just as the poppies in our yard cannot say, “No, sun! I will not open for you,” we also cannot stop ourselves from yielding to this gloriously beautiful and gracious God. Of course, we are all aware that many people say “no” to God and resist him. This is only because God allows them to continue in their resistance and rebellion. When God decides to overcome our broken, sinful, rebellious hearts, it is wonderfully impossible for us to say no. Praise God!! He always triumphs! 

Scripture to help us with understand the doctrine of irresistible grace:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

“As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

“No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:65)

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15–16)

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13)

“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

HOW WE DO HYMN OF THE MONTH

If you are new to this community, welcome! It is a great time to join in and make family worship a priority if you haven’t already. You may or may not be familiar with this hymn. Either way, we invite you to spend this month meditating on its truths. 

To get you started, we’ve provided free printable lyrics, music and copywork — all found here! 

LISTEN IN

You can find fresh versions of the hymn on our YouTube channel that you and your family can sing along with. There are loads of fresh versions of our favorite hymns on our hymn of the month playlist

KEEP IT SIMPLE

When we began singing hymns with our littles about 11 years ago, we kept it simple… We prayed and sang one hymn together every night at bedtime for a whole month. Everyone’s family rhythm is different, so we welcome you to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn (following your daily time in the Scriptures and in prayer) whether it is first thing in the morning, or around the dinner table or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. You can let us know how it’s going by posting either a video or a photo on Instagram. Just tag it with #happyhymnody! As always, if you have any questions or if you’d like to share your heart with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out! God bless you all this month as you worship and follow Jesus together as a family!

With so much love,

April

Bibliography/Works Cited:

http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/v/a/n/d/van_dyke_hj.htm

Fenner, C. “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee.” Hymnology Archive. 24 June 2019. Retrieved November 13, 2021 from: https://www.hymnologyarchive.com/joyful-joyful-we-adore-thee 

Keller, H. “Midstream My Later Life.”  New York, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. (1929)

Editors, TheFamousPeople.com. “Henry Van Dyke Biography” Retrieved November 13, 2021 from: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/henry-van-dyke-239.php 

Piper, J. Is Grace Really Irresistible? Message excerpt from September 7, 2018. Desiring God. Retrieved November 13, 2021 from: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-free-will-of-the-wind/excerpts/is-grace-really-irresistible

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