Revive us again


Origins. In 1859–1860, a great revival occurred in Scotland, part of a greater evangelical revival movement (“Third Great Awakening”) led especially by Charles Grandison Finney (1792–1875), Edward Payson Hammond (1831–1910), and others. The outpouring of religious fervor led to a corresponding flurry of new hymns in Scotland and Ireland, including “Before the throne of God above” by Charitie Lees Smith and “Revive us again” by William Paton Mackay (1839–1885).

The text of this hymn by Mackay, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, was first published in William Reid’s Praise of Jesus (London: James Nisbet, 1863 | Fig. 1), unattributed, originally beginning “We praise Thy great love, our Father and God.” The original form of the text was in nine couplets, divided into two parts, plus the refrain “Hallelujah! Thine the glory,” etc.

Fig. 1. William Reid, Praise of Jesus (London: James Nisbet, 1863).

Mackay’s text was repeated in William Reid’s The Praise-Book (London: James Nisbet, 1866 | Fig. 2), this time with music. In this collection, the credit is much clearer. In the preface, Reid acknowledged Mackay for providing tunes for his own texts in the collection. In the index, this text was credited to “W.P. Mackay, M.A.—1863,” with a tune named HALLELUJAH, “Its own melody. ‘Revival Tune Book.’ 1863. Harmonised by H.E. Dibdin—1865.”


Fig. 2. William Reid, The Praise-Book (London: James Nisbet, 1866).


This tune, therefore, was written by Mackay for his own text, first published in the Revival Tune Book (London: Morgan & Scott, ca. 1863 | Fig. 3, image pending).

According to James Mearns in A Dictionary of Hymnology (1907), p. 1667, the text was “recast” in 1867. In William Reid’s collections, the revised version appeared in The Praise Book (London: James Nisbet, 1872 | Fig. 4), in ten couplets, with the refrain.

Fig. 4. William Reid, The Praise Book (London: James Nisbet, 1872).

This text and tune entered American hymnody in New Praises of Jesus (NY: Biglow & Main, 1869 | Fig. 5), a collection edited by Edward Payson Hammond and William Bradbury. In this printing, the text consisted of six couplets from the revised version (1-4, 9-10), with the two-line refrain. The author and composer were not credited. In the first volume of this series, Praises of Jesus (1865), Hammond acknowledged using several hymns from Reid. Hammond had met Reid during his evangelistic campaigns in Edinburgh.

Fig. 5. New Praises of Jesus (NY: Biglow & Main, 1869).

J.J. Husband. This tune is commonly (and erroneously) attributed to John J. Husband (1760–1825). Husband was an English composer who later emigrated to Philadelphia; he had long been deceased before the emergence of this tune in the 1860s. His tunes ranging from 1789 to 1820 are documented in Nicholas Temperley’s Hymn Tune Index; this is not among them. The earliest printings of this tune in the United States were either unattributed or generically labeled “English melody” or “Old melody.” The attribution to Husband appeared as early as Robert Lowry’s Chautauqua Carols (1878), no. 95, labeled “J.J. Husband, 1793.” A contributor to the Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal (1992), p. 265, said the tune was composed “around 1815 and may have been used with a secular text.” Among Husband’s known hymn tunes, ST. STEPHEN’S has the same opening intervals, but the similarity does not extend beyond the first couple of measures. It was first published in Psalmodia Evangelica, vol. 2 (London, 1789 | Fig. 6),

Fig. 6. Thomas Williams, Psalmodia Evangelica, vol. 2 (London: S. A. & P. Thompson, 1789). Melody in the middle part.

William Reid’s 1866 collection clearly states Mackay had written his own tunes to accompany his texts. REVIVE US AGAIN exhibits characteristics common to gospel/revival tunes, including a harmonically simple chord structure. Additionally, the irregular meter of the text, mixing dactylic and trochaic patterns, almost certainly indicates the tune had been written by Mackay especially for his text.

Legacy. This Scottish revival hymn has proven to be much more popular on the American side of the Atlantic, where it was adopted by gospel publishing partners Robert Lowry and William H. Doane, starting with Pure Gold for the Sunday School (1871). The hymn was also adopted by the ministry team of Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey, and published in Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs (1875 | Fig. 7). In this collection, the tune was paired with a text by Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) while offering Mackay’s text as an alternative (the misspelling of Mackay’s name was corrected in later editions). Here, the text was dated 1866.

Fig. 7. Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs (NY: Biglow & Main, 1875).

This hymn was described in an eyewitness account of a Moody-Sankey revival in Philadelphia, 1875:

Mr. Moody then gave out the 25th hymn, which was sung by the choir and the entire congregation, led by Mr. Sankey. The people seemed to be deeply impressed with it, and such whole-souled singing by more than eleven thousand persons has never been heard before in this city. It is in these words: “We praise Thee, O God! for the Son of Thy love …”[1]

This hymn was also a favorite in the crusades of Billy Graham (1918–2018), and their performances of it included a unique practice. In 1967, Cliff Barrows wrote:

When we sing it, we often revert to the ancient practice of antiphony which was common in the performance of the Hebrew psalms. In the refrain, the audience on one side of the auditorium or stadium will sing “Hallelujah!” and those on the other side will echo “Thine the glory,” and so on until the final phrase “Revive us again,” which we sing in unison.

There are technical problems, of course! Because of the size of the congregations and the relatively slow speed at which sound travels, it is sometimes difficult to stay together. Nevertheless, even without the help of organ and piano, it is a thrilling experience of praise in song. Sometimes we have sung the hymn responsively over long distances. In our final meeting in Sydney, Australia in 1959, the first phrase was sung by 80,000 people in the Royal Agriculture Society’s Showground. They were answered by 70,000 people in the Cricket Ground, almost two blocks away. In 1955, by use of a telephone line relay, the folk in Bangor, North Wales responded to the audience in Glasgow, Scotland.[2]

for Hymnology Archive
14 June 2019


  1. E.J. Goodspeed, A Full History of the Wonderful Career of Moody and Sankey in Great Britain and America (NY: Henry S. Goodspeed, 1876), p. 280.

  2. Cliff Barrows, “Revive us again,” Crusade Hymn Stories (Chicago: Hope Publishing, 1967), p. 121.

Related Resources:

James Mearns, “William Paton Mackay,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London: J. Murray, 1907), p. 1667.

Paul Hammond, “We praise Thee, O God!” Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal (Nashville: Convention Press, 1992), pp. 265-266.

Samuel J. Rogal, Sing Glory and Hallelujah! Historical and Biographical Guide to Gospel Hymns Nos. 1 to 6 Complete (London: Greenwood Press, 1996), pp. 90, 175.

“We praise Thee, O God,”