Charles Nutter

O Thou to Whom, in Ancient Time

John Pierpont

1 O Thou to Whom, in ancient time,
The lyre of Hebrew bards was strung,
Whom kings adored in song sublime,
And prophets praised with glowing tongue;
2 Not now on Zion’s height alone
The favored worshiper may dwell,
Nor where, at sultry noon, Thy Son
Sat weary by the patriarch’s well.
3 From every place below the skies,
The grateful song, the fervent prayer,
The incense of the heart, may rise
To heaven, and find acceptance there.
4 O Thou to Whom, in ancient time,
The lyre of prophet bards was strung,
To Thee at last in every clime,
Shall temples rise and praise be sung.

Universal Worship” is the title which this hymn bears in the author’s Poems and Hymns, 1840. It was written for the opening of the Independent Congregational Church in Barton Square, Salem, Mass., December 7, 1824, and was printed at the close of the sermon preached by Rev. Henry Colman on that day. The sentiment of verses two and three seems to have been inspired by Christ’s conversation with the woman of Samaria at the well. (John 4:21-23.) Two stanzas are omitted.

John Pierpont, a Unitarian preacher, was born in Litchfield, Conn., April 6, 1785; graduated at Yale College in 1804. After spending some years as a teacher, lawyer, and merchant, he became a minister when about thirty-three years old, and in 1819 was installed as pastor of the Hollis Street Unitarian Church, in Boston, where he remained twenty-one years. His strong anti-slavery and temperance utterances brought him under fire. From 1845 to 1849 he was pastor of the Unitarian Church at Troy, N. Y., and from 1849 to 1859, of the Unitarian Church at Medford, Mass. He was for a while a chaplain in the army during the Civil War, but was later in the government employ at Washington. He died August 27, 1866. His Poems and Hymns was published in 1840; second edition, 1854. About twenty of his hymns are found in Church hymnals.