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“Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” (“O Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus”)

TITLE: "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne"/"O Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus"
AUTHOR: Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (1836-1897)
TUNE: MARGARET
COMPOSER: Timothy R. Matthews (1826-1910)
SOURCE: The Faith We Sing, no. 2100
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11
TOPIC: Advent, Christmas, Incarnation, Lent, Holy Week, Resurrection, Christ the King

Background

English author, editor, and hymn writer Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (1836-1897) was the daughter of a scholarly writer, Edward Bishop Elliott, also the Rector of St. Mark's Church in Brighton, England. Her aunt, Charlotte Elliott, is better known than Emily; and she composed 150 hymns, including the popular "Just As I Am Without One Plea."

Emily Elliott's hymn, "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne and Thy Kingly Crown," was first printed in a leaflet and first used at St. Mark's Church in Brighton in 1864. It appeared in the 1935 Methodist Hymnal, was missing from the 1966 Methodist Hymnal and the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal. It appears in The Faith We Sing (2000) at no. 2100. It may have been excluded from the 1966 and 1989 hymnals because of its Elizabethan English with "thee," "thou," "thy," and the verb forms "didst," "comest," "camest," and "callest." Such language poses a dilemma to modern hymnal editors: "Should we preserve the integrity of the original text, even with its outdated and often confusing forms, or should we try to edit it, updating the language to modern use?" Both positions have their partisans. The Faith We Sing elected to keep the original language, including the change in stanza five's final phrase, which some find somewhat confusing.

The tune was composed for this text by Timothy R. Matthews (1826-1910), an English clergyman and musician. He composed over a hundred hymn tunes as well as morning and evening prayer services, and he edited a publication known as Village Organist. He named this tune MARGARET; but numerous sources use the name ELLIOTT, after the author of the words. The tune is appealing with its rich harmony and unexpected chord changes, and it has become a favorite of choirs, organists, and pianists.

This hymn is usually placed in the Christmas section of a hymnal because of its first two stanzas. However, the third stanza takes Jesus into the Galilean desert. Stanza four includes Jesus' trial, the mocking scorn, the crown of thorns, and finally his death at Calvary. The final stanza refers to Jesus' final coming in victory and our place at his side in eternity, and contains the altered final phrase. Portions of the hymn are suitable for late Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, and Christ the King/Reign of Christ. Individual stanzas and the final phrase may be effectively used as choral responses throughout the year.

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