Denis was an elder at Mordialloc. He had served in the merchant marine and liked two hymns. One was ‘Blest Are the Humble Souls That See’, because the tune ‘Gonfalon Royal’ had featured at one of his weddings. (Denis had been widowed twice.) The other was ‘Eternal Father, Strong To Save’.
While ‘God Our Help In Ages Past’ is in wider popular use for memorial services these days, ‘Eternal Father’ has a stronger association with the armed services, especially the Navy.
1.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
2.
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
3.
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
4.
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Throughout the twentieth century various alterations and additions were made to accommodate a wider application for its petition of protection. This version from the Rejoice! Hymnbook is representative:
1.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm restrains the restless wave,
Who told the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed bounds to keep:
We cry, O God of majesty,
For those in peril on the sea.
2.
O Christ, the Lord of ev’ry place
Of everywhere that traffic moves,
By mountain pass or valley low;
Wherever, Lord, Your people go,
Protect them by Your guarding hand
From every peril on the land.
3.
O Spirit, whom the Father sent
To spread abroad the firmament;
O Wind of heaven, by Your might
Save all who dare the eagle’s flight:
And keep them by Your watchful care
From every peril in the air.
4.
O Trinity of love and power,
Preserve their lives in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, flood and flame,
Protect them by Your Holy Name.
Thus evermore with thanks shall we
Give praise from air and land and sea.

A YouTube rendition which features the hymn’s well known tune ‘Melita’.

One thought on “Eternal Father Strong To Save – Sunday Songs

  1. rcottrill says:

    Thanks for posting “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” and the updated version. I still like William Whiting’s 1860 original–a British Navy Hymn that is also used by the U.S. Navy. (Today is the 132nd anniversary of Whiting’s death.)

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