“Come, Thou almighty king”

from West Main Baptist Church site

BY BEN

Wednesday Is for Worship

This Wednesday I’m in the middle of Vacation Bible School week, and we’re thoroughly enjoying Group’s Kingdom Rock.  One of the reasons that we always do Group’s VBS material is their great music, which is geared more toward actual worship than other VBS music seems to be.  They do a great job of introducing our kids to contemporary and historic hymns of the faith.  This year I’ve been particularly struck by their version of “Come, Thou Almighty King.”

While it’s clear that Fe­lice de Gi­ar­di­ni wrote the melody in 1769, the author, who probably penned the lyrics in the 1740s, is debated.  Many attribute the song to Charles Wesley, but there is only circumstantial proof that he wrote it.  Therefore, most simply accredit it to “Anonymous.”  Interestingly enough, there’s a good reason the writer wanted to remain anonymous.  Mark Creech relates the story—which he learned from the the 1926 edition of A Junior Hymnal with Song Stories and Worship Programs from The Standard Publishing Company and compiled by J.E. Stugis and W.S. Martin—in this way:

The book provides some history on “Come, Thou Almighty King” that I’ve never read anywhere else, which may throw some light on why the hymn’s authorship is in question. What is more, the story is a patriotic one that demonstrates America’s deep roots in the Christian religion.

The book recounts a time in our nation’s history when we were in deep trouble – that period when America was struggling for its independence from the tyranny of England’s King. The crisis was so intense the people could hardly bear it and a company of them who lived in Long Island gathered together for worship in their church.

England, as we know, had a national song, “God Save the King,” the first verse of which reads:

“God save our gracious King,
Long live our noble King,
God save the King.
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the King.”

The words were sung to the same tune as our own, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

When these patriotic followers of Christ were meeting in church for worship, a company of British soldiers showed up and their commander had them march up the aisle. It was an extremely threatening and fearful situation. When the commander reached the front of the sanctuary, he turned to the congregants and demanded: “Sing, ‘God Save the King.’” The organist began playing the tune everyone knew so well, but instead of singing “God, Save the King,” they sang this prayer:

“Come, Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise:
Father all glorious,
O’er all victorious,
Come, and reign over us,
Ancient of days!”

The commander and the soldiers were so taken aback – so moved by such deep spirituality – so moved by this earnest prayer to God and its devotion to Christ as King – they marched out of the church without any further threats or intimidations.

Though the book’s story doesn’t give specifics such as the date, name of the church, etc., it certainly seems plausible and consistent with similar records of history for the same time period. One Crown-appointed British governor wrote back to Great Britain complaining: “If you ask an American who is his master, he’ll tell you he has none. And he has no governor but Jesus Christ.” A motto of the American Revolution directed against King George III was: “No King but King Jesus!”

Perhaps one of the reasons the authorship of this hymn has never been clear is because that is the way the author wanted it. Whatever name had been associated with its text would have likely been executed for treason to the Crown. [citation]

Wow!  What an awesome story!!  No king but King Jesus, indeed!!!

I’m going to share with you today the Kingdom Rock version of “Come, Thou Almighty King,” which simply repeats the first verse.  If you have the 1991 or 2008 version of the Baptist Hymnal, it’s in there.  Get it out, and sing praise to King Jesus!

1. Come, Thou almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise!
Father all-glorious,
O’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.

2. Come, Thou Incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword,
Our prayer attend;
Come and Thy people bless
And give Thy Word success;
Stablish Thy righteousness,
Savior and Friend!

3. Come, holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour.
Thou, who almighty art,
Now rule in every heart
And ne’er from us depart,
Spirit of Power!

4. To the great One in Three
Eternal praises be
Hence evermore!
His sovereign majesty
May we in glory see
And to eternity
Love and adore!

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One Response

  1. I fell upon this searching for the lyrics to “Come, Thou Almighty King”. My church also did Kingdom Rock VBS. We were invited to lead music worship at a local Layman’s camp, and I managed to round up a pianist and children willing to sing. So, we chose classics that require only one practice, because the kids know them, and this particular song, from VBS. Thanks for sharing the history. I am truly blessed to be able to use the internet as a tool. :)

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