Saturday, 29 February 2020

This Is My Father's World

Recently I came across a poem by Joseph Addison (1672-1719), the son of Anglican cathedral dean, Rev. Lancelot Addison. According to historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, Joseph Addison was a “playwright and an undistinguished politician whose serenity was capable of rising above the disappointments of his life: for that considerable virtue he was widely loved.”

As I thought about that MacCulloch quote, and as I read Addison’s poem, I couldn’t help but think of how relevant it is for us today. As I look at some of the political junk being spewed forth by activists and politicians here in my homeland of Canada (though the same could be said of any country’s politics), and the inevitable stresses that come from too much political focus, Addison reminds me of what ultimately matters: our benevolent God who created all things.


Could it be that God, Creator of heaven and earth, is still in control? Could it be that, though the world seems to be determined to ever so rapidly descend into the proverbial ‘hell in a hand basket,’ that God hasn’t been blindsided by it all? Could it still be true that, as Amy Grant sang, This Is My Father's World? I believe it is.

However, Addison’s calm confidence was not just amidst a dysfunctional political machine; it was also coming out of a dysfunctional religious machine: the church. When we look back on church history, Joseph Addison lived in the time immediately after the 16thcentury Protestant Reformation. The church was divided and in turmoil. Some of the things done in this era, under the guise of Christianity, were absolutely atrocious and anything but Christ-like. Perhaps the same could be said of the church in our modern world. Lord have mercy!

It is in this setting that Joseph Addison calmed and encouraged his readers with this poem, which was possibly inspired Psalm 19. May it bless and encourage you as well:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly too the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine.
‘The hand that made us is divine.’

Peace and blessings, friends. Be encouraged; God is still in control.

Photo Credit: Josefine Stenudd; Flickr Creative Commons, Maligne Lake, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Poem Source: Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, p. 786-7.

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