Friday, February 6, 2009

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name

Praise for the Lord #19

Words: Edward Perronet, 1779 (4th stanza John Rippon, 1787)
Music: Oliver Holden, 1793 (CORONATION tune)

Edward Perronet (1726-1792) was an Englishman descended from French Calvinist refugees, and was a minor co-worker with the Wesleys.(Cyberhymnal, "Perronet") The text of this hymn is actually anonymous, but it appears in one source along with an acrostic poem that spells out "E-D-W-A-R-D-P-E-R-R-O-N-E-T", thus he is assumed to be the author of both.(Cyberhymnal, "All hail") For such a modest man, according to contemporaries, he wrote with an exuberance and dramatic flair that sometimes overreached his abilities; but over the years editors have sifted an excellent hymn out of his original text.

There are so many textual variations from the original poem, through its 19th-century hymn adaptations, and down to our present version that it would probably be best to just provide links to some of the variants and let the reader pursue that individually, as you wish.

Cyberhymnal text. This is presumably the original poem, and is the version upon which British versions are based (cf. the Oremus Hymnal page).

Version in William Walker's Southern Harmony. This was an influential songbook during the 1850s, the frontier days of the U.S. Midwest and South. The text version is closer to what we have received in the Churches of Christ in this country, but still with some significant differences.

The United Methodist Hymnal version is similar to that found in Praise for the Lord, with the exception of two verses which we have not received.

It is important to understand the setting of the action described in this text. The fourth verse of the original text, not found in our hymnal, is probably the clearest evidence of what Perronet had in mind when he wrote:

Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God,
who from His altar call;
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown Him Lord of all.
(Cyberhymnal, "All hail")

This can be nothing other than the scene described in Revelation 6:9-10,

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

Once we realize the source of Perronet's inspiration, things fall into place. He has selected certain elements of the "throne room" and "coronation" scenes in the Revelation, and made a poem rehearsing the fact that every group of beings, human or otherwise, must acknowledge Christ as Lord.

Hopefully this will allay the concerns some conscientious Christians have had about a song that may seem to represent Christ as not yet having "all authority"(Matthew 28:18) or as receiving authority from mere humans, in the sense that we usually think of the greater granting the crown to the lesser. (For example, at the coronation of the British monarchs, the crown is granted by the Archbishop, representing the authority of God; Napoleon, by contrast, is said to have snatched the crown from Pope Pius VII and placed it on his own head.) Ellis Crum, editor of Sacred Selections, was obviously bothered by this text and revised it extensively. He amended the first verse, for example, to read: "They brought the royal diadem / And crowned Him Lord of all". He altered the rest of the verses in similar fashion to avoid the present-tense "crown". As is often the case, I have great respect for Brother Crum's conscience and intent, but disagree with his interpretation of poetry.

The "crowning" spoken of here is from the Revelation, probably drawn from chapters 4 and 5, where the residents of heaven cast down their own crowns at God's feet, and then proclaim the Lamb worthy to receive all authority. In this context, it is not that we or anyone else is "granting" a crown of authority to Christ, but rather that we (like the 24 elders in Revelation 4) surrender our crowns to Him, acknowledging His natural authority over our lives. The present tense used in this hymn is found in the Revelation as well (how else would one represent the throne room of the "I AM"?), and is a good reminder to us that our surrender to Christ's authority is not only the single act of conversion, but is also a constant, daily choice.

Now, finally, to the text itself!

Stanza 1:
All hail the power of Jesus' name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all.

The power of Jesus' name is evident throughout scripture. By His name, the disciples found, they had power over demons.(Luke 10:17) It was in His name that they did mighty works of healing that caused many of that generation to believe.(Acts 4:30) The greatest work done in His name, though, is the one available to all--Acts 2:38 tells us that it is "in the name of Jesus Christ" that we can be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Someday we must all recognize the authority of that name:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Philippians 2:9-11)

As many have commented, it is not a question of if, but of when.

Stanza 2:
Ye chosen seed of Israel's race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail Him who saves you by His grace,
and crown Him Lord of all.

This stanza has an interesting and varied history. Perronet originally said "Ye seed of Israel's chosen race", which somewhere along the line was inverted to its present form. The altered version is probably better, since it emphasizes not a "chosen race", but a "chosen seed" of the faithful from that race, echoing Romans 9:6, "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel..." There is no need for the overt hostility of the phrase "a remnant weak and small" found as the second line of this stanza in the version found in Walker's Southern Harmony, and it is a blessing that someone combined a couple of verses into this present form, which combines "Israel's race" with those "ransomeed from the fall". The latter are presumably Gentiles, who by comparison were without a new word or covenant from God since the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve:

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.(Ephesians 2:13-16)

The great heritage of faith from "Israel's race" pointed the way to Christ, and we cherish that history as we read of so many inspiring examples of faith. We are also warned that not even ties of blood were enough to make one acceptable before God; instead we "know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham."(Galatians 3:7)

Stanza 3:
Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to Him all majesty ascribe,
and crown Him Lord of all.

We do well to remember that every Sunday, as we raise our voices in praise to God, there are brothers and sisters of every class and nation and color and language doing the same. What a joy it will be, when we all meet in heaven to praise Him there! "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."(Galatians 3:27-28)

If I may address my fellow "brethren of (less) color", it is high time that we recognize and embrace all of our brothers and sisters around the world and here at home. Where there is prejudice among us, let us confront it as Paul did (Galatians 2:11) and repent of it. By and large, it is not from our African American brethren, or from our Hispanic brethren, that we are seeing the current wave of liberal theology and practice in the church; nor is it from our brethren in Africa and India, to name two fertile areas of growth. Now more than ever we need to lay aside those old attitudes (which were never Christlike to begin with) that are keeping apart those of "like precious faith."(2 Peter 1:1)

Stanza 4:
O that with yonder sacred throng
we at His feet may fall!
We'll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him Lord of all.

This final stanza was added with the publication of this hymn in John Rippon's significant A Selection of Hymns from 1787, which also introduced "How firm a foundation"(PFTL #248) and "Majestic sweetness sits enthroned"(PFTL #422). It is assumed that Rippon wrote the verse himself, and it is a fine reflection on the original text. Here, it seems, we step back from the scenes of Revelation and long for the day when it will be consummated. May we examine our hearts and prepare ourselves so that we can say confidently along with John, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."(Revelation 22:20)

About the music: Oliver Holden (1765-1844) was a fairly typical example of the colonial-era "singing-master". At that time (and for long after!) there was no opportunity for formal music education in the colonies, except perhaps private study with a visiting European performer. In an effort to revitalize church music, though, a native-born system of "singing schools" sprang up during the 1700s. This topic will require a post all its own; suffice to say that they were untrained composers who, free from any sense of restraint by the formal techniques of classical composition, tended to break a few rules along the way. Their style was rugged and energetic, if sometimes naive; and it may at least be said that it is often more interesting to sing than are the more prim and proper products of the 19th-century Americans who parroted the latest styles from Germany. For a more outlandish example of the colonial style, check out "Lo! What a glorious sight appears"(PFTL#403); an excerpt of it can be heard here.

Holden was a carpenter by trade and, like most singing-masters, pursued music as a secondary, seasonal career during the off-season. CORONATION appeared in his second publication, Union Harmony (1793), and may hold the distinction of being the first music written by an American to remain in continous, widespread use since its first appearance.(Thompson) It has something of the trumpet fanfare about it, and certainly fits the European concept of a coronation march. Note in particular the third line (the first time through "bring forth the royal diadem"), where the harmonic texture is reduced to two parts (sopranos and tenors in octaves, altos and basses in octaves). The sound of a brass fanfare is replicated in the way the alto/bass line harmonizes with the melody, using only the notes that would be available to an old-fashioned natural (no valves or keys) trumpet. The resulting open-fifth chords on "bring" and "the" are not mistakes, but are part of the style. It sings well a cappella and at a loud volume--typical of the singing-school era!


Cyberhymnal. All hail the power of Jesus' name.

Cyberhymnal. Edward Perronet.

Cyberhymnal. John Rippon.

Thompson, Oscar. Holden, Oliver. International cyclopedia of music and musicians. 11th ed. New York: Dood, Mead & Co., 1985, pp. 1029-1030.


  1. I wonder what Erik Routley thought of the tune. He denigrated the tune "Diadem" but made no mention of "Coronation."

  2. Coming from the U.S. singing-school tradition as it does, "Coronation" may have been off Routley's radar, or beneath his contempt. ;-) He was such an opinionated writer, but when people are knowledgeable and passionate about a subject that is often the case!