I came across this hymn lyric in Bruce Hindmarsh’s brilliant book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism‘, in a chapter describing the attitude of early evangelicals (the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield) toward the emerging science of their day. It turns out that they were very curious about it and wrote extensively on the subject.
I find this lyric interesting. It is addressed to God the Holy Spirit, who traditionally is seen as being involved in creation (‘and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters’ – Genesis 1.2 KJV). However, in today’s evangelicalism I think it would be rare to find much discussion about the Holy Spirit’s role in the creation and sustenance of the universe; the emphasis would be almost entirely on the Spirit’s role in the work of human salvation. This lyric, then, is a salutary reminder to us of the attitude of an earlier generation: ‘Author of every work divine who dost through both creations shine’ (i.e. the old creation of the universe, and the new creation in Christ). The Spirit is not only the God of grace, but also the God of nature.
Charles Wesley: ‘Author of Every Work Divine’
Author of every work divine,
Who dost thro’ both creations shine,
The God of nature and of grace,
Thy glorious steps in all we see,
And wisdom attribute to thee,
And power, and majesty, and praise.
That all-informing breath thou art,
Who dost continued life impart,
And bidst the world persist to be;
Garnish’d by thee yon azure sky;
And all those beauteous orbs on high
Depend in golden chains from thee.
Thou dost create the earth anew,
Its Maker and Preserver too,
By thine almighty arm sustain;
Nature perceives thy secret force,
And still holds on her even course,
And owns thy providential reign.
Thou art the Universal Soul,
The plastick power that fills the whole,
And governs earth, air, sea, and sky;
The creatures all thy breath receive,
And who by thy inspiring live,
Without thy inspiration die.
Spirit immense, eternal Mind!
Thou on the souls of all mankind
Dost with benignest influence move;
Pleas’d to restore a sinful race,
And new create a world of grace
In all the image of thy love