O Worship the Lord

O Worship the Lord

Posted on 04th September 2020 under The Rectory Bulletin | Hymn Stories


Worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96:9)


Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875) was one of those vigorous clergymen who inhabited the Victorian Church of Ireland (and England). Born in Londonderry, he was ordained after studying at Trinity College Dublin, and over the course of his life served in four parishes. He built or rebuilt the churches in three of these, and the good residents of Ballycastle (Country Antrim), Englefield Green in Egham (Surrey) and Guildford have the opportunity to admire his handiwork. Or, rather, the handiwork of the builders he employed. In fact, he received what was to be a fatal wound when masonry fell on him as he watched the church in Guildford being built.

His life was tinged with grief, losing one son on the way to serve in the Crimean War and a daughter aged only twenty eight, yet he was not slow to praise God in the writing of many hymns. In fact he once wrote:

We are, alas! too distant and reserved in our praises. We sing not as if our hearts were on fire with the flame of divine love and joy, as we should sing to Him, and of Him, Who is chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. If we loved Him as we ought to do, we could not be so cold.

Two hymns of his are well known: Fight the Good Fight, and O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness. The second of these has its roots in Psalms 95 and 96, and speaks of the great holiness of God which can only evoke worship. It serves to remind us that worship is a response to the awesomeness of God, and not a favour which we do for him.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his name.

Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness:
high on his heart he will bear it for thee,
comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.

Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine:
truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on his shrine.

These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his name.

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