Monday, November 15, 2010

Music Monday - This is my Father's World

Notes on "This is My Father's World," a hymn by Maltbie Babcock, showing God's presence, power, personality and purpose.

"This is My Father's World" is taken from a 16-verse poem written by the Reverend Maltbie D. Babcock, one of the outstanding Presbyterian ministers of his day. It was published posthumously in 1901. The first line of each of the 16 stanzas begins with "This is my Father's World." Scripture references are Psalm 33: 5 "He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love." and Psalm 50:12b "For the world is mine, and all that is it." (NIV)

Text Writer Maltbie D. Babcock

Maltbie Davenport Babcock, one of the most remarkable students of Syracuse University, was born in Syracuse, New York, on August 3, 1858 of a socially aristocratic and prominent family. He was a brilliant scholar with an amiable personality. Tall and broad-shouldered with muscles of iron, he was an outstanding athlete, captain of the baseball team, and an expert swimmer. He was also a skilled musician who directed the university's orchestra, played several instruments, including the organ, piano and violin, and composed music.

For all his positive human attributes, Babcock was respected as a pastor with strong convictions and principles. He could have been successful in any profession, but God called him to the ministry and trained at Auburn Theological Seminary. Babcock became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lockport, New York, a beautiful area between Lakes Erie and Ontario. A great lover of nature, he had the habit of taking morning walks, hiking and running in the beckoning hills of the surrounding country with the full view of Lake Ontario, lost in nature's beauty.

Babcock was characterized by his frequent expression as he'd say to his secretary, "I'm going out to see my Father's world." However, as one writer has noted, "This hymn is more than just an outburst of song about nature, but rather a seasoned appreciation, beautifully worded, of an unfailing trust in God. In this hymn, Babcock portrays the message of "God's Presence, God's Personality, God's Power, God's Purpose."

Something of the character of Babcock, both as a man and a preacher, is reflected in one of his well-known poems, "Be Strong:"

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift,

'Tis God's gift.

Composer Franklin L. Sheppard

The tune for the text was arranged from an old English melody by one of Babcock's close friends, Franklin L. Sheppard, an accomplished musician. It was first included in his book, Alleluia, a Presbyterian Sunday School book published in 1915. The tune name, "Terra Beata" in Latin, means "blessed earth."

Last Years of Babcock

Aged 42, Babcock went on pilgrimage to the "Holy Land" by ship, a special gift presented by his church. While en route to Italy, he contracted a deadly bacterial fever and died at the International Hospital on May 18, 1901. His wife compiled his writing into a book Thought for Everyday Living, published in 1901, including "This is My Father's World."

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