The Humble Hymnist

Jerry Rushford remains one of my favorite teachers, especially when he teaches about hymns. One of the most memorable classes was about a young hymn-writer, Edward Perronet (1721 – 1792). His family were French Huguenots and were forced to flee first to Switzerland and then to England where they became involved with the Evangelical Movement along with Whitefield and the Wesley brothers, John and Charles.

Although Edward was very critical of the Anglican Church, he once wrote, “I was born and I am like to die in the tottering communion of the Church of England; but I despise her nonsense.” His senior, John Wesley, approached him time and time again to preach, but Edward resisted. He felt it was improper for a younger man to preach, especially when someone as capable as John Wesley was present, but Wesley was persistent, and eventually Perronet conceded.

“Although I have been forced to preach against my will in the presence of such notable men, I shall preach the finest sermon anyone has ever heard,” he announced. And he did. He stood up and read the Sermon on the Mount and sat down.

Perronet wrote “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” in 1789, but he was so humble, it wasn’t until 126 years after it was printed that researchers finally discovered Edward Perronet was the author!

His hymn is normally sung to one of two tunes. “Miles Lane,” was written by a nineteen-year-old organist in London, William Shrubsole, and “Coronation” was written in 1793 by American Oliver Holden in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Naturally our English brethren prefer the tune “Miles Lane” in their hymnals, while Americans almost universally sing it to “Coronation.” 

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

(Note: John Rippon composed verse 7 which is verse 4 in Songs of Faith and Praise #145 and #161. The lesser-known tune, “Diadem” was written in 1838 by James Ellor. See hymn #145)

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