Hymn History: “All Hail the Power”

Church music has such a rich history, but we often know very little about the brave men and women who wrote our beloved hymns. As we transition into Fall, I’m hoping to write a bit more about some of these people–what their lives were like, what they did, and why they might have been inspired to write such powerful music. Today’s focus is on Edward Perronet, who wrote the text to “All Hail the Power (of Jesus’ Name).”

Edward Perronet (1726-1792) was born in Kent, England to a family that had fled France due to religious persecution. His father, an Anglican minister, was strongly supportive of the teachings of John and Charles Wesley and of George Whitefield. Edward also grew up to be an Anglican minister, though he disagreed with many practices of the Anglican church. In the 1740s and ’50s, he spent a great deal of time traveling and evangelizing with the Wesleys. Their group suffered frequent persecution and violence because of their teachings. John Wesley often encouraged Perronet to preach, but Perronet found preaching in front of the Wesleys to be far too intimidating, so he always found ways to avoid preaching in their presence. During one service, John Wesley decided that he had had enough, and, in front of the entire congregation, he called Perronet up to preach. Perronet, realizing that he had no way out, strode behind the podium and said, “I will now deliver the greatest sermon ever preached on earth.” He proceeded to read “The Sermon on the Mount” and quietly sat down.

After several years of ministering with the Wesleys, Perronet decided to part ways. The three felt that they had too many disagreements (and that Perronet was too opinionated) to effectively minister together. It was at that time that Perronet began serving at an independent church in Canterbury, where he worked until his death in 1792. Perronet’s last 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! Into His hands I commend my spirit!”

Perronet wrote most of his hymns and poems anonymously, but “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” was published in 1779, and it has been a standard in most Christian hymnals ever since. It is the only work in his name that is well-known. The song has been referred to as the “National Anthem of Christendom,” and it has been translated into nearly every language. Of it, one writer wrote, “So long as there are Christians on earth, it will continue to be sung; and after that, in heaven.”

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name!
 Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, 
and crown Him Lord of all!

 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!

 Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe, 
and crown Him Lord of all!

 Oh, that with yonder sacred throng 
we at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song, 
and crown Him Lord of all!

Resources: http://www.theeffectivetruth.info/testep.html, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/p/e/perronet_e.htm

1 thought on “Hymn History: “All Hail the Power””

  1. Christin – thanks for this. I look forward to hearing more about the hymn writers, the hymns, and stuff we usually don’t get to talk about in Christian Ed at the parish level. Keep the “rest of the story” coming to us. ~dan

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