Home History of Hymns: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"

History of Hymns: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"

"All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name"
Edward Perronet
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 155

Edward Perronet

“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall,
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.”

The popularity of this late-18th-century hymn may be attested by the fact it appears in hymnals with as many as three different tunes: CORONATION, DIADEM and MILES’ LANE. Each tune reflects a different cultural and denominational context in which this text is sung.

Another unusual aspect of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the number of modifications that have been made from the original text.

The original hymn text dates from 1779 and 1780, and was first printed in November 1779 in the Gospel Magazine, a publication by “Rock of Ages” composer Augustus M. Toplady. An eight-stanza version appeared just a year later in the same magazine titled, “On the Resurrection. The Lord is King.”

Massive alterations began as early as 1787 when the text was included in John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns with the title “The Spiritual Coronation, Canticles 3:11”—a reference to the Song of Songs: “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.”

British hymnologist and literary scholar J.R. Watson notes, “By applying Solomon’s crowning to this hymn, the Old Testament reference is seen as Solomon’s prefiguring of Christ.”

Among the most notable changes made by Rippon was the final stanza. Perronet originally wrote:

“Let every tribe and every tongue
That bound creation’s call,
Now shout in universal song
The crowned Lord of all.”

Rippon’s version, which took hold in the early 19th century and remains in constant use today, is:

“O that with yonder sacred throng
We at his feet may fall,
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And crown him Lord of all.”

Perronet (1726-1792) was born in Sundridge, England, and died in Canterbury. His family came from the Huguenots of Switzerland, and according to The UM Hymnal editor Carlton Young, “was closely associated with and esteemed by the Wesleys.”

Against the desires of John Wesley, Perronet promoted the idea that Methodist preachers should be able to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In another controversial act, Perronet published a satire on the Church of England, The Mitre, angering the Countess of Huntingdon in whose chapel he served. As a result, he left to become a minister in the independent chapel in Canterbury.

Working together for a time, Wesley encouraged Perronet to preach, but Perronet preferred to defer to Wesley. The Methodism founder persisted, however, and announced that, “Brother Perronet will now speak.” Perronet stood before a large crowd and declared, “I will now deliver the greatest sermon ever preached on earth.” He then read the Sermon on the Mount and promptly sat down.

The tunes commonly associated with this famous text reveal much about this joyful expression of the 18th-century evangelical revival movement. CORONATION is a tune by American Oliver Holden (1792) and was first published in Boston in 1793. A stately tune in duple meter, it has the character of a coronation march.

DIADEM was composed by James Ellor in 1838 at the age of 19 for the anniversary of a Wesleyan Sunday school in his hometown of Droylsden, Manchester. This tune, in triple rhythm, has the feel of a stately minuet and suggests an anthem to be sung by a choir, especially with the independent parts of the refrain. It is indeed thrilling to hear congregations or church musicians sing this version in four parts.

The tune originally paired with this text, MILES’ LANE, does not appear in The United Methodist Hymnal. Written by William Shrubsole (1760-1806), it is less favored, in light of the other more buoyant tune options.

Regardless of the tune, the version we sing today leaves no doubt that the entire earth—from the “chosen seed of Israel’s race” and “sinners” and “martyrs” to “every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball”—will sing the “everlasting song” at Jesus’ feet. Now that will be a song to hear!

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology.

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