It’s sometimes called the “National Anthem of Christendom” and once referred to as “one of the most striking hymns in the language” (Garrett Horder, The Hymn Lover), so majestic are the lyrics and music. It was written by Edward Perronet in 1779 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1780. In 1785 it was also published in a book of poems, entitled “Occasional Verses, Moral and Sacred: Published for the Instruction of the Candidly Serious and Religious”:
Edward Perronet was born in 1726, the son of Vincent Perronet, Vicar of Shoreham and a contemporary of John and Charles Wesley. Charles Wesley referred to Edward’s father as the “Archbishop of the Methodists” and it has been said of Charles and John Wesley: “That if we should ever disagree in our judgment, we will refer the matter to Mr. Perronet.” John Wesley, long a bachelor, had sought the advice of Perronet in regards to marriage and it turned out to be unfortunate advice (see last week’s Puritans vs. Methodists article).
Edward’s ancestors were French Huguenots who first fled France to Switzerland and then to England to avoid religious persecution. Although Edward was born into the Church of England, he didn’t seem enthusiastic about the attachment: “I was born, and am like to die, in the tottering communion of the Church of England; but I despise her nonsense.” (The Musical Journal, Volumes 19-20, p. 184)
Edward was a follower of Wesley and a preacher himself but would never preach in John Wesley’s presence, so in awe of him I suppose. According to The Musical Journal:
It is said that Wesley had long been anxious to hear him preach, but, for some unexplained reason, Perronet did all he could to defeat Wesley in this particular. Wesley, however, was not to be defeated. After slowing one of his meetings, he announced, without previously consulting Perronet, that next Sunday evening Perronet would address the congregation in the same place. Perronet, again, resolved that he would have the better of Wesley; so, when the Sunday evening came, he rose and announced that he would give the grandest sermon that had ever been delivered, and then read the Sermon on the Mount!
John Wesley referred to him as “Ned” and in 1755 they had a disagreement over the administration and distribution of communion. Thereafter, Edward Perronet became an “independent” and preached to a small congregation of dissenters until his death in 1792.
When the hymn was written there was a somewhat unusual collaboration, for it was more common for hymn melodies to be composed later, perhaps even after the lyricist had died. William Shrubsole was about twenty years old in 1779 and a church organist and chorister. Shrubsole’s tune was called “Miles’ Lane”, a somewhat strange name for a hymn, and it isn’t clear the reason why it was so named. “Miles’ Lane” was the first tune, and one that I have never heard. It is quite majestic and worth a listen by clicking here. The tune that I grew up hearing and the one probably most often sung in churches today is “Coronation”.
The two men were obviously close friends as later Edward named William one of the executors of his will and apportioned a large part of his estate to his dear friend:
Lastly, I do here give and bequeath all and every property I am at this time or may at the time of my decease be possest of, both real and personal, to the aforementioned William Shrubsole, now or late of the parish of St. Bride’s, in London; and to the mail heirs of his body lawfully begotten, to be by them (subject to the dividends aforementioned) possest, enjoyed, and disposed of as they shall see meet for ever, in consideration of his respect for me, his services to me, and that pure and disinterested affection he has ever shown me from our first acquaintance, even when a proverb of reproach, cast off by all my relations, disinherited unjustly, and left to sink or swim as afflictions and God’s providence should appoint.
Apparently William was like a brother to Edward, who had been cast off by his own family. According to Illustrated History of Hymns and Their Authors, Edward’s dying words were:
Glory to God in the height of His divinity; glory to God in the depth of His humanity; glory to God in His all-sufficiency, and into His hands I comment my spirit. Thus with his dying breath he tried to “crown him Lord of all.”
Illustrated History of Hymns and Their Authors includes stories about the impact of All Hail The Power of Jesus Name. Here are a few (click to enlarge):
John Rippon, a Baptist minister, later modified the hymn from its original eight verses to four and published it in The Gospel Magazine. The hymn first appeared in America in 1791 and here the song was sung to the tune of “Coronation” rather than “Miles’ Lane”.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.