AT the request of regular reader ‘Starshiptrooper’, this week’s hymn is All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name, often referred to as the National Anthem of Christendom.
It was written by Edward Perronet (1726-1792), whose French Huguenot forebears had fled to England to escape religious persecution. Perronet worked closely with Methodist pioneers John and Charles Wesley for many years, and like them suffered physical attacks.
Here is an extract from John Wesley’s diary in 1749, when Perronet was aged 23:
I rode, at the desire of John Bennet, to Rochdale, in Lancashire. As soon as ever we entered the town, we found the streets lined on both sides with multitudes of people, shouting, cursing, blaspheming, and gnashing upon us with their teeth.
Perceiving it would not be practicable to preach abroad [i.e. in the open air], I went into a large room, open to the street, and called aloud, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.’ The Word of God prevailed over the fierceness of man. None opposed or interrupted; and there was a very remarkable change in the behaviour of the people, as we afterward went through the town.
We came to Bolton about five in the evening. We had no sooner entered the main street than we perceived the lions at Rochdale were lambs in comparison to those at Bolton. Such rage and bitterness I scarcely ever saw before in any creatures that bore the form of men. They followed us in full cry to the house where we went; and as soon as we had gone in, took possession of all the avenues to it and filled the street from one end to the other.
After some time the waves did not roar quite so loud. Mr P [Edward Perronet] thought he might then venture out. They immediately closed in, threw him down and rolled him in the mire; so that when he scrambled from them and got into the house again, one could scarcely tell what or who he was.’
Although he was considered a good preacher, Perronet was shy about doing so in front of the considerably older and better known John Wesley, despite repeated urgings. Finally, Wesley forced the issue, announcing that Brother Perronet would speak the following week. When the day came, Perronet mounted the pulpit and declared he would deliver the greatest sermon ever preached. He then read Christ’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ from the Gospel of Matthew and sat down.
Later he fell out with the Wesleys and his association with Methodism came to an end. For a while he preached in The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, a small group of evangelical churches founded by Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, in 1783. There are still 22 congregations in Britain, seven with full-time pastors: Eastbourne, Ely, Goring (Berkshire), Rosedale (Hertfordshire), St Ives, Turners Hill (West Sussex) and Ebley (Gloucestershire). However Perronet’s aversion to the established church in any form led to his becoming the minister of an independent congregation.
His last words before he died on January 2, l792, 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 suffering! Into His hands I commend my spirit.’
The first verse of All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name (sometimes rendered as All Hail the Power of Jesu’s Name) appeared anonymously in the November 1779 issue of the Gospel Magazine, which was edited by a fierce doctrinal opponent of the Wesleys, Augustus Toplady. (He wrote the hymn Rock of Ages.) In April 1780, the magazine published eight verses titled On the Resurrection, the Lord Is King. It resurfaced half a dozen years later, again anonymously, accompanied by an acrostic poem, the first letters of each line of which spelled out ‘Edward Perronet’. (The Gospel Magazine, founded in 1766, is still published every two months, making it one of the longest-running periodicals.)
Perronet wrote other hymns but none is still in use. In 1895 Bishop Cyrus D Foss of the Methodist Episcopal Church, described him as ‘Perronet, bird of a single song, but O how sweet!’
There is a story about a 19th century missionary in India involving this hymn. Here is an account from The great hymns of the church: Their origin and authorship by Duncan Morrison published in 1895 (pp 157-158).
The missionary, Rev E P Scott, while labouring in India, saw on the street one of the strangest looking heathen his eyes had ever lit upon. On inquiry he found that he was a representative of one of the inland tribes that lived away in the mountain districts and that came down once a year to trade. Upon further investigation he found that the Gospel had never been preached to them and that it was dangerous to venture among them because of their murderous tendencies. He was stirred with much desire to break unto them the Bread of Life. He went to his lodging-place, fell upon his knees and pleaded for Divine direction. Arising, he packed his valise, took his violin with which he was accustomed to sing and his pilgrim staff. As he bade his fellow missionaries farewell, they said, We shall never see you again. It is madness for you to go.
For two days he travelled, scarcely meeting a human being, until at last he found himself in the mountains surrounded by a crowd of savages. Every spear was pointed at his heart. Not knowing of any other resource he tried the power of singing the name of Jesus to them. Drawing forth his violin he began with closed eyes:
All hail the power of Jesus name! etc.
Afraid to open his eyes he sang on till the third verse, and while singing this verse—
Let every kindred, every tribe, etc.—
he opened his eyes to see what they were going to do, when, lo! the spears had dropped from their hands and the big tears were falling from their eyes. They afterwards invited him to their homes, an invitation gladly accepted. He spent two years and a half amongst them. His labours were greatly blessed, and he had so won upon their affections that when he was compelled to leave on account of impaired health for this country, they followed him for thirty miles. O missionary, they said, come back to us again. He has gone back and there is labouring still.
Annoyingly, this footnote appears on the Hymntime website:
‘Two decades later, Scott’s wife wrote that the hymn played by the violinist was Am I a Soldier of the Cross; see An Autobiography of Anna Kay Scott, M. D. (Chicago, Illinois: Anna Kay Scott, 1917), pages 38–39. We do not know which account is more accurate.’
The tune I know for this hymn is Miles Road, written in 1779 by the English organist William Shrubsole (1760–1806). For reasons I have not been able to pin down, he is buried in the same grave in Islington, north London, as the the great-great-grandparents of J R R Tolkien, John Benjamin and Mary Tolkien.
Here it is from Duke University in North Carolina:
However there are two other tunes which seem to be in more widespread use. One is Coronation, written in by the American composer Oliver Holden (1765-1844), who was a carpenter by trade and moved into real estate dealing in later life.
It is sung here at Temple Baptist Church in Powell, Tennessee.
Here is it by Bing Crosby on his 1951 album Beloved Hymns.
The third tune is Diadem by James Ellor (1819-1889). He was born in Droylsden, now a suburb of Manchester, and trained as a hat-maker, but was also leader of the Wesleyan church choir. He wrote Diadem for a Sunday School anniversary at his church in 1838, when he was 19, and emigrated to America five years later, where he carried on his trade as a hatter. This is the only hymn tune for which he is remembered.
Here it is sung by Proclaim, a group of brothers from two families in Ohio.
This is a version by Vazhtheedin Yeshu Naamathe singing in Malayalam, one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.
Here is it given by Waterson:Carthy from their 2013 album Holy Heathens and the old Green Man.
And I couldn’t resist this one by Andrew Lapp, who calls himself a concert pianist, composer, Steinway artist and showman.