Stir with Anticipation and “Awake, My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve”
With every morning comes anticipation and the hymn "Awake, My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve" is the perfect song to express such emotions. An Englishman, Philip Doddridge, wrote this hymn. It was created in 1750 as a poem to accompany Doddridge's sermons, and it was first published four years after his death. It was set to tune to "Christmas" by the famous composer George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). This hymn survives as one of the most popular hymns in the church as it appears in 975 hymnals. Its first publication was in Job Orton's 1755 Hymns Founded on Various Texts in the Holy Scriptures by the Late Reverend Philip Doddridge, D.D.
The hymn's theme is about the believer's anticipation and his race/path to God. It has five stanzas; each stanza has its idea and contains scriptural allusions to the theme. The first stanza speaks of the path’s direction. Believers should "press for vigor" to reach the heavens and towards "an immortal crown". The second stanza calls them to be witnesses. Believers should forget the steps they have taken and look forward to the future. The third verse defines the path as a call from God and discusses what believers should expect and aspire. Stanza four mentions the path’s rewards to the believers. The true reward is the God’s grant of true and eternal life in Heaven, compared to temporal "victors' wreaths and monarchs' gems". The last verse talks about a believer's start in this path, introduced and led on Jesus Christ as the savior. This path symbolises the opportunity to gain eternal life and happiness, victory over sin and bequeathed the honor to live in Heaven.
The man behind the hymn, Philip Doddridge, was born in London, England, on June 26, 1702. He was the youngest of twenty children to a father, who was an oil merchant. Most of his siblings died in infancy, and he was one of the two who survived. He was left as an orphan in 1715 as a young boy. His religious background was not lacking, with a paternal grandfather as an Independent minister and Lutheran minister as a maternal grandfather. He gave his first sermon at twenty and served as a minister at Kibworth. He was also a minister of the Castle Hill Congregational Chapel at 27, serving for 22 years. He was also a known prolific writer of many theological works and authored 400 hymns. His hymn work was published after his death. Some of his best-known works are "O Happy Day," "Grace! 'Tis a Charming Sound", and "O God of Bethel". Like "Awake, My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve", they are mostly derived from Scripture and written between the 1730s to 1750s. He died at age 47 in 1751 at Lisbon, Portugal. His cause of death was tuberculosis and exhaustion.