My Country, ‘tis of Thee

Guest essay by Christian Law Association

This patriotic hymn was written by Samuel Francis Smith, a native Bostonian, born on October 21, 1808. After attending Boston Latin School, he enrolled in Harvard, then attended Andover Seminary. While there, Samuel became fascinated by the work of Adoniram Judson, known as America’s first missionary, and he developed a lifelong passion for reaching the world.

It was during his first year at seminary that a hymn publisher, Lowell Mason, sought his help to translate German songs and materials as Samuel was proficient in German. One February, Samuel sat alone in his room and pored over materials. He was struck by the words of “Gott segne Sachsenland” “God bless our Saxon Land” set to the tune we know as “America.”

“I instantly felt the impulse to write a patriotic hymn of my own adapted to this tune,” Samuel later said. “Picking up a scrap of paper which lay near to me, I wrote at once, probably within half an hour, the hymn ‘America’ as it is now known.”

In the years that followed, Samuel Francis Smith became a Baptist preacher, pastor, college professor, hymnist, writer, and missionary advocate. He traveled the world in support of missions and rejoiced when his son became a missionary to Rangoon.

My country, ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountain side
Let freedom ring.

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble, free–
Thy name I love:
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills:
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees,
Sweet freedom’s song:
Let mortal tongues awake,
Let all that breathe partake,
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee I sing
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

The words of this song speak volumes of patriotism, and the last stanza in particular always strikes me. In this less-sung portion, Smith directs his attention to the One who created it all and placed America in His sovereign care. The God of our forefathers is the God of today. The God of their Bibles is the God we serve as well. We echo the sentiments in this song, asking for God’s protection of our freedoms, reminding ourselves that He is the Author of liberty! Our prayer is that God would continue to protect believers spanning the world with safety, and that the freedoms we hold so dear in America would continue to be upheld by His hand!

The original of this article was published in The Legal Alert, July 2014.  The Christian Law Association proves churches and Christians with free legal defense and legal counsel for those under fire for following a Biblical stand. This work includes various media and prayer ministries as well.

© 2014 Used by Permission

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