All hail the power of Jesu’s name: Edward Perronet

Bible Study

All hail the power of Jesu’s name: Edward Perronet

Bible Study by David Wright
Edward Perronet (1721-1792) was born into a family of French Huguenot refugees who came from Chateau d’Oex in Switzerland in 1680. For 57 years his father was vicar of Shoreham, in the Darent valley, Kent. Both Edward and his father knew the Wesleys well, and Edward joined them as an itinerant preacher. He attacked abuses in the Church of England in a satire that was too strong for Wesley, and the book was suppressed. By 1771, he had left both the Church of England and the Wesleys, and joined the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection – a denomination similar to Methodism, but more Calvinistic in nature. He continued his very strong criticism of the Church of England, which led to further disagreements, and finally he became pastor of a small Independent Chapel in Canterbury. Despite his anti-Anglican stance, he is buried in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral.

Although he published many hymns, this is the only one to survive in general use. It was originally published in the Gospel Magazine in 1779-80. Despite its origins, it is now sung in Anglican churches as much as in nonconformist chapels. The hymn has often been altered, and some versions (e.g. in Songs of Praise) have little connection with the original. Some versions include words by John Rippon, who altered Perronet’s hymn as early as 1787.

‘All hail’ were Christ’s first recorded words after the resurrection (Matthew 28:9). At these words, the Marys fell and worshipped him. This hymn, too, starts with ‘All hail’ and calls first on angels to fall prostrate before him. This thought comes from Revelation 7:11: ‘All the angels stood around the throne . . and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God’. The creation, too, praises God (verse 2); the author doubtless had in mind Psalm 148:3, ‘Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him all ye stars of light’. Job 38:4-7 expresses the same idea: ‘I laid the foundations of the earth: the morning stars sang together’. The ‘strength of Israel’ (verse 2, line 3) is a title for God used only by Samuel (I Samuel 15:29).

From the praise of the angels and creation, we move to human praise. First come the martyrs, who are pictured in Revelation praising God (Rev 6:9-11). The phrase, ‘Extol the Stem-of-Jesse’s Rod’ (verse 3, line 3) has seemed too obscure for some editors, who have altered it to, ‘Praise Him, whose way of pain ye trod’. But the author was using another title for God the Son, taken directly from Isaiah 11:1: ‘There shall come forth a rod [i.e. a branch] from the stem [i.e. the family tree] of Jesse’. The ancestry of Jesus is traced to David, and so to Jesse, David’s father. Jesus is thus the ‘Stem-of-Jesse’. This line also links with verse 5, which refers again to ‘David’s line’.

Verse 4 speaks specifically of the Jews, calling them to recognise Christ as the Messiah. But in verse 5, the ‘heirs of David’s line’ refers to Gentiles as well as Jews, for, ‘If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s’ (Galatians 3:29). Line 2 of this verse, ‘whom David Lord did call’ refers to Psalm 110:1, which is taken in Hebrews 1:13 to refer to Jesus.

‘The God incarnate, Man divine’ (verse 5, line 3) is remarkable expression, which is so easily sung and so rarely thought about: God in human flesh, a Man who was also God. This expresses so succinctly the mystery of the Incarnation. From this, the author calls on sinners, including himself, to offer, ‘trophies’ (verse 6, line 3) – everything we possess. We cannot forget Christ’s crucifixion. The reference in line 2 is to Lamentations 3:19, ‘Remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.’

The final verses calls on everyone to worship the crowned Lord together. The original second line of v 8, ‘that bound creation’s call’, has been variously altered. Some versions have, ‘Before him prostrate fall’, thus returning to the original thought of verse 1. Others have, ‘To Him their hearts enthral’ (i.e. become in his ‘thrall’ or power). The idea of worshipping Jesus as King is present in every verse, and the repeated, ‘Crown Him’ from the last line of each verse, has led to the term, ‘the Coronation hymn’.

NB: All biblical quotations are from the Authorised Version.

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