Hymn All People That on Earth Do Dwell


Words: William Kethe, 1560

Music: Louis Bourgeois's Genevan Psalter, 1551


This particular hymn is actually a Psalm, and it is actually a paraphrase, or a metrical rendering, of Psalm 100. Psalm 100 is a Psalm that has been a favourite Psalm to set to music by church musicians, I think, ever since there were church musicians! It goes something like this, depending on what your English translation is:





1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

For the believer, praising God is as natural and as vital as breathing.  We praise Him for all his wonderful works, for his protection, for His mercy, for the countless and undeserved blessings he showers upon us; for the joy and peace he brings into our lives. As we praise God we grow in humility and in awareness of His power, His providence, and His presence in our lives and everything around us. Others see and hear our praise, the manifestation of our contentment in God, and are moved to seek Him out for themselves.

Among the best ways to praise our Lord is in "Psalms and Hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart(s) to the Lord . . ." And surely among the most inspiring of such hymns is “All People That on Earth Do Dwell”. The text calls on us to rejoice in the wonder of our own creation, in God's loving care for us, and in His goodness, mercy, and truth. We are urged to "praise, laud, and bless His Name always," just because "it is seemly so to do."

"All People That on Earth Do Dwell" is based on Psalm 100 as said.  That Psalm is five verses in length, and the song is four verses.  The first verse of the song is based on verses 1 and 2 of the psalm, and each of the subsequent verses of the song is based on one verse of the psalm.  It is probably the oldest hymn in common use today.

The words of the hymn was written by a Scot clergyman, a Scottish exile to the Switzerland named William Kethe. There are a lot of Kethes in Scotland, and there were a lot of Scottish exiles on the continent of Europe, especially in the area of Frankfurt in the 1550's and 1560's, because those were the “bad old days” in Britain. Many, many Protestants had been run out of the country during the reign of Mary Tudor ("Bloody Mary", the Catholic queen who persecuted Protestants). Not only were three hundred, and some among them great Christians, martyred during those times, but thousands and thousands. Above 20,000 people were exiled from England during that period of time; Kethe was (probably) among them, and during that time he wrote this paraphrase.

During this period at Switzerland, John Calvin (1509–1535) was concerned that hymns not clearly based on scripture might introduce false doctrine into the church, and so he advocated the singing of Psalms.  He said that there were "no better songs nor more appropriate to the purpose (of congregational singing) than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him." In 1551, a Psalter was published in Geneva that included a song based on Psalm 134 and set to a tune by Louis Bourgeois.  In 1561, the Anglo-Genevan Psalter (an English-language Psalter) was published in Geneva that included "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" set to that earlier tune by Bourgeois.

Kethe, (died 6 June 1594) helped with the translation of the Geneva Bible in 1560 and contributed 25 psalms to the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, which he carried with him back to England in 1561, after the restoration of Protestantism there by Mary's half-sister Queen Elizabeth I and introduced this music to the English.  A number of his psalms found their way into the English Psalter of 1562, which was published by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins.  All of his psalms were included in the Scottish Psalter two years later.

After Kethe returned to England in 1560 or 1561, he served as a rector of the church of Childe Okeford until his death. From 1563-1569 he served as a chaplain to the English troops serving under the Earl of Warwick.

The musician who wrote the long meter (L.M) tune to this hymn is the French composer Loys "Louis" Bourgeois (1510–1560) as said. He is the main compiler of tunes for the Genevan Psalter, he was the individual most responsible for the tunes in that Psalter. The first edition came out in 1539, with succeeding editions in 1542, 1543, 1551, and 1562) which-thanks in large part to William Kethe a decade later-became the source for the hymns of both the Reformed churches in England and the Pilgrims in America. He wrote about 53 of the tunes for Calvin's Psalter.  The melody has come to be called "Old 100th" or "Old Hundredth," based on the text's paraphrase of Psalm 100. This hymn tune first appeared in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter (although, at that time, it accompanied a paraphrase of Psalm 134). It is unclear which tunes were composed by Bourgeois, but this one is generally attributed to him.

Another text widely associated with the Old 100th is Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow, which is commonly sung as a doxology (a short hymn of praises to God often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns)--in fact, traditionally referred to as The Doxology--and written in 1674 by Anglican clergyman Thomas Ken as the final verse of two companion hymns, Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun and Glory to Thee, My God, This Night. The way we do it now when we do The Doxology is we sing it in straight notes. But when we sing the hymn, All People That on Earth Do Dwell, we sing it with elongated first notes and last notes.

All People That on Earth Do Dwell was sung at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, with harmonization and arrangement by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This version was sung again at the National Service of Thanksgiving to the Almighty God to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen at St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday, 5th June 2012

The Hymn Full Text 

1. All people that on earth do dwell,
    sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
    him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell.
    Come ye before him and rejoice.

2. Know that the Lord is God indeed;
    without our aid he did us make;
    we are his folk; he doth us feed,
    and for his sheep he doth us take.

3. O enter then his gates with praise;
    approach with joy his courts unto;
    praise, laud, and bless his name always,
    for it is seemly so to do.

4. For why? The Lord our God is good;
    his mercy is forever sure;
    his truth at all times firmly stood, 

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