Words: Matthew Bridges (b. July 14, 1800; d. Oct. 6, 1894)
Godfrey Thring (b. Mar. 25, 1823; d. Sept. 13, 1903)
Music: Diademata, by George Job Elvey (b. Mar. 27, 1816; d. Dec. 9, 1893)
Note: The words, as they appear in most hymnals, are a composite of stanzas from Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring. (Complicating things even further, some books combine lines from one stanza with those of another!)
Thring says he wrote his amended version of this great hymn at the request of Rev. H. W. Hutton, because the latter did not approve of some of Bridges stanzas. Matthew Bridges, writing as a Roman Catholic, includes the following lines, with their Mediaeval description of Mary as “the mystic Rose.” This is one of the stanzas omitted in most Protestant hymnals today (CH-2–erroneously ascribed to Thring, in the Cyber Hymnal).
Crown Him the Virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic Rose, as of that Rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.
Stanzas CH-1 and CH-6 are Bridges’, and CH-3 and CH–4 are Thring’s. These are the four most commonly used, but there’s one more I’ll include, written by Bridges, and too good to miss! (CH-9). It praises the Lord as “the Potentate [Ruler] of time.” (“Ineffably sublime” means the Lord is of a surpassing excellence, beyond words.)
Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.
The “many crowns [diadema in Greek]” upon the head of the Lord Jesus are spoken of in Revelation 19:12 (cf. 1:5-6). Most likely what John describes is a several tiered diadem, with one circlet stacked upon another. They define Christ’s role, as King of kings and Lord of lords (vs. 16), and also add majestic beauty to His person.
Notice how many times this magnificent hymn makes some reference to the saving work of Christ. He is “the Lamb…who died for thee” (cf. Jn. 1:29). He “triumphed o’er the grave…for those He came to save” and “died eternal life to bring.” In “His hands and side” are “rich wounds, yet visible above.” (We know that Christ’s resurrection body still bore the scars of Calvary, Jn. 20:24-27; cf. Rev. 5:6.) And “Thou hast died for me.”
1) We are given the words of one of the heavenly songs in Revelation 5:9-10. (The “scroll,” mentioned first in vs. 1-4, is likely the title deed to the earth. That Christ has a right to break the seals and open it indicates that He is the rightful Ruler.) What else do we learn from this song?
2) Another of the songs of the heavenly kingdom is given to us in Revelation 15:3-4. What else do we learn from it?
Note: Some believe “the song of Moses” is that which is recorded in Deuteronomy 32:1-43. But I wonder if it’s possibly the one sung by the Israelites after God brought them through the Red Sea by a mighty miracle (Exod. 15:1-18). Appropriately, the latter song ends with “The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (vs. 18, paralleling Rev. 11:15; 22:5). And the supernatural deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and into a land of plenty the Lord had given, provides a beautiful parallel to the sinner’s deliverance and new life in Christ, the Lamb of God. Exodus 15:1 gives us the first reference to singing in the Bible, and Revelation 15:3 gives us the last, a significant symmetry.