Topic: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) grew up on a farm in Massachusetts.  While he did not have the advantage of a higher education, a teacher in the district school that he attended as a boy introduced him to poetry.  He became particularly fond of the poetry of Robert Burns.

Whittier was a lifelong Quaker whose faith shaped his life and much of his writing.  He didn’t intend to write hymns for two reasons:  First, he didn’t feel competent musically.  Second, in his Quaker tradition, hymns were not sung in worship.  Nevertheless, several of his poems were set to music by other people.  Many modern hymnals include one or two of his hymns, but “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” is the only one that has had nearly universal acceptance.

The verses of this hymn come toward the end of a longer poem entitled, “The Brewing of Soma.”  Soma was an intoxicating drink used in Hindu worship to induce religious frenzy.  Whittier, who was appalled at the frenzied revivalism of his day, asks God to “Forgive our feverish ways.”  He honors quiet qualities of religious devotion—”purer lives”—”deeper reverence”—and “simple trust”— qualities that he learned from his Quaker faith.

Whittier’s faith led him to become a strong advocate of the abolition of slavery.  William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist, was the first person to publish his poems, and the two men became lifelong friends.  Whittier was one of the founders of the Republican Party—Lincoln’s party—devoted to the abolition of slavery.  He lived long enough to see the slaves freed in the United States. — Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan

1 Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways;

reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find,

in deeper reverence, praise.

2 In simple trust like theirs who heard beside the Syrian sea

the gracious calling of the Lord, let us, like them, without a word

rise up and follow thee.

4 Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease;

take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess

the beauty of thy peace.

5 Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;

let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

O still, small voice of calm!

3 O Sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above, where Jesus knelt to share with thee

the silence of eternity, interpreted by love!

  1. Text; 1 Kings 19:11–13 (ESV) 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
  1. Text; 1 Kings 19:14–14 (ESV)  13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”