Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hymns & Hymn Writers: How Great Thou Art

In 1855, Carl Boberg produced a poem in Swedish that would be translated into German, then Russian, then English. It would be set to music by Stuart Hine in 1886. The tune for the song was a Swedish melody. The hymn first appeared in a Covenant hymnbook called Sanningvitnet and dates to 1891. Hine took the poem and tune, added some lines of his own, and arranged it into the hymn we know as “How Great Thou Art.”

Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) Lyricist

Carl Boberg’s poem was called "O Store Gud" (O Great God) and had nine verses. The inspiration for the song was an approaching storm with wind, thunder, and lightning. The storm was followed by a rainbow and the beautiful sounds of birds singing and church bells ringing. The sights and sounds of this day moved Boberg to write his poem. The poem was based partly on Psalm 8. The poem was published March 13, 1886. The first literal English translation of “O Store Gud” was by E. Gustav Johnson (1893–1974).

Here is a translation of the original poem:

O Great God

1. O great God, when I see that world as you have created with your authority, how your wisdom guides the threads of life, and all beings are saturated at your table;
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

2. Then I consider the highs of heaven, the golden worldship plows the easter blue, and the sun and moon measure the times of time and change as double watches go;
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

3. When I hear the thunder's voice in the storm, the blast and lightning blows running out of the clouds, when the cold of the rain, healthy winds shine and the bow of the promise shines for my sight;
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

4. When the west winds over the fields, When flowers dull around the beach of the source, when treks drill in the green tents, From the pine forest's silent, dark edge; Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

5. When I see in the Bible all of them, as the Lord then made the first time of Adam, how merciful he has been all the while, and helped his people from the sin and battle of life; 
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

6. When I hear fools in the foolishness of their folly deny God, and mock what He said, but yet, they see His help, and be held by His grace and power;
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

7. And when I see his image to the ground float and do good and help in general, when I see Satan fly and death beautify to the Lord in a deciphered crucifixion:
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

8. When printed by the guilt of sin I fall down at the faith of grace and pray for mercy and peace and he will guide my soul on the right path and deliver me from all my sin and battle;
Refrain : |: Then the soul burst into praise song: O great god! O great God! : |

9. Finally, all the envelopes of the time are falling, and in view, my faith changes, and the clear watches of eternity call my saved spirit to the sabbaths;
Refrain : |: So the soul breaks  out in praise song Thanks, good God! Thank God! : |

Stuart Wesley Keene Hine (1899-1989), Lyricist, Translator, Arranger & Composer

Hine was born July 25, 1899 in Derbyshire, England. His wife’s name was Edith Salmon.  Hine was heavily influenced by Charles Spurgeon. He first heard this hymn while in the Ukraine. It was the Russian version of the German translation of the Swedish poem. He wrote verses 3 & 4. The Hines had to leave Ukraine during the Famine-Genocide perpetrated on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin during the winter of 1932–33, and they also left Eastern Europe at the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939. They returned to Britain and lived in Somerset. He would continue to work and aid Polish refugees displaced by the war which served as the inspiration for verse 4. He first published his song in his Russian magazine Grace and Peace in 1949. The song’s popularity would grow from there. It would be translated into other languages and be recorded numerous times by recording artists. Some sources stated this song is only surpassed in popularity by “Amazing Grace”.  He had others hymns, but none as popular as “How Great Thou Art”. Stuart Hine died March 14, 1989, in Essex, England.

He also wrote the following supplemental verses in 1953:

O when I see ungrateful man defiling
This bounteous earth, God's gifts so good and great;
In foolish pride, God's holy Name reviling,
And yet, in grace, His wrath and judgment wait.

When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
Bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face;
And then in love He brings me sweet assurance:
'My child! for thee sufficient is my grace'.

How Great Thou Art

I can recall my parents seeing the Grand Canyon for the very first time. I was not there, but I heard that they began singing “How Great Thou Art”. I heard dad tell someone it was their first impulse at the majesty they saw with their own eyes. It is not the first time this song has come bursting forth from the heart of man in praise to God for such demonstration!

We have seen so many wonderful acts of creation and demonstrations of God’s power. It is sad that there are those who still deny. There are even those who come so close to believing in God, but they refuse to acknowledge the God of the Bible. Take this quote for example:

“I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the language in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves constellations.” (Albert Einstein, as quoted by Antony Flew, There Is A God, 99)

Recall the words of the apostle Paul to the Christians at Rome—“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23 NKJV)


“How Great Thou Art. No Pages. Cited 27 August 2017. Online:

“How Great Thou Art.” No Pages. Cited 27 August 2017. Online:

V. E. Howard and Broadus E. Smith, eds.  Church Gospel Songs & Hymns. Texarkana, TX:  Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.

“O Store Gud.” No Pages. Cited 27 August 2017. Online:

“Stuart K. Hine.” No Pages. Cited 27 August 2017. Online:

“Stuart Wesley Keen Hine.” No Pages. Cited 27 August 2017. Online:
John P. Wiegand, Editor. Praise for the Lord. Nashville, TN: Praise Press, 1997.

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