Words: Thomas Kelly (b. July 13, 1769; d. May 14, 1855)
Music: Bryn Calfaria (Hill of Calvary), by William Owen (b. Dec. 12, 1813; d. July 20, 1893)
Note: Written over two hundred years ago (in 1809), this is a truly great hymn, and a number of tunes have been used with it. The last line and a half of text (“Crown Him! Crown Him! / Crowns become the Victor’s brow”) need to be repeated with some of the tunes.
Bryn Calfaria, in a minor key, has great dramatic power. But the Cyber Hymnal lists a number of alternatives. Coronae, by Henry Monk (1823-1889) is often used. You might also try Cwm Rhondda, the tune by John Hughes (1873-1932), which we use for Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, or Regent Square, by Henry Thomas Smart (1813-1879), which is commonly used with Angels, from the Realms of Glory.
The inspiration for this wonderful ascension hymn (which also foreshadows something of the second coming) comes from Revelation 11:15, which declares:
“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
It is a dramatic reversal of the rejection of Christ at His first coming, when His brow was cruelly pierced with a crown of thorns. At that time, “Sinners in derision crowned Him, / Mocking thus the Saviour’s claim” (CH-3). But all that changed with His return to Glory.
“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11).
CH-1) Look, ye saints! the sight is glorious:
See the Man of Sorrows now;
From the fight returned victorious,
Every knee to Him shall bow;
Crown Him! Crown Him!
Crowns become the Victor’s brow.
The Philippian passage tells us that ultimately, as Thomas Kelly declares, “every knee shall bow to Christ (vs. 10). It’s all inclusive. Just as Christ’s name is above “every” name (vs. 9, same word). Some indeed will bow in reverence and holy submission (cf. Rev. 4:10-11; 19:4-9). And the heavenly city will echo with “bursts of acclamation” (CH-4), honouring the Lord.
But unregenerate sinners, and Satan and his demon hosts, will bow too, in the sense that they will be forced to acknowledge the absolute sovereignty of Christ, and will be unable to deny the perfect justice of God (cf. Deut. 32:4), though filled with hate and malice still. Surrounded by the searing pains of hell, fallen angels and lost sinners will face an eternity of lonely and regretful remembrance, grinding frustration, hateful rage, and utter hopelessness (cf. Matt. 25:41; II Thess. 1:9; Rev. 14:11; 20:10-15; 22:11).
This dreadful prospect gives all the more reason for the urgent proclamation of the gospel of grace today. Compelled by the love of Christ (II Cor. 5:14), we plead with others to turn to the Saviour, because “now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:1-2). Before death closes the door forever, and the unsaved face the prospect of eternal condemnation (Heb. 9:27), we need to “spread abroad the Victor’s fame” (CH-3), and tell what the Saviour has done to save fallen mankind.
CH-4) Hark, those bursts of acclamation!
Hark, those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station;
O what joy the sight affords!
Crown Him! Crown Him!
King of kings and Lord of lords!
1) Does your church calendar include a recognition of Ascension Day? (And is this a hymn you have used for that?)
2) Does your church teach about the existence of hell, and warn all who are outside of Christ that it is their certain destination (cf. Jn. 3:36)?