Posted by: rcottrill | March 27, 2010

Today in 1816 – George Elvey Born

George Job Elvey was born into a musical family and started his musical career as a boy singer at Canterbury Cathedral. Later, he received training at the Royal Academy of Music, eventually being awarded a doctorate. Mr. Elvey provided music for many important state events. He was knighted by Queen Victoria after he wrote his Festival March for the wedding of her daughter Princess Louise. (John Campell, whom she married, wrote the hymn Unto the Hills, and later became Governor General of Canada.)

Elvey’s tune St. George’s Windsor was named for St. George’s Chapel, in Windsor, where he was the organist for 47 years. We use it with the hymn Come, Ye Thankful People, Come. His tune Diademata is used with the hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns. (For another example of a hymn for which Mr. Elvey wrote a tune, see the second item under Today in 1608.)

Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

With the understanding that I do not endorse Mormon theology, I offer a rendition of the latter hymn using Elvey’s tune, performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is sung a little too quickly for my own taste, but is otherwise excellent, here is Crown Him with Many Crowns.

(2) Today in 1842 – George Matheson Born
WGraphic Chainshen an individual trusts in Christ, he is set free. And “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Cor.3:17).

But there are other passages that speak of the Christian being a slave, and in bondage. “Having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God…” (Rom. 6:18). We are to be  “bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6).

So which is it? Are Christians slaves? Or are we free? There is an old saying, “He who is captive to his compass has the freedom of the seas.” In other words, the person who uses a compass and navigational charts is able to travel freely to his destination, and has good chance of reaching it in safety. Similarly, in the Christian life, following the principles of the Word of God is not confining but liberating because they keep us safe from spiritual danger.

George Matheson wrote a hymn about that. In spite of progressive blindness, Matheson became  a clergyman in the Church of Scotland. Because of his ability to memorize, listeners to his preaching were sometimes unaware of his disability. After about three decades in pastoral work, he turned his attention to writing, and produced several hymns. His hymn O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go (third item under Today in 1594) is best known. But we should also consider the insightful paradoxes in Make Me a Captive, Lord.

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.

My heart is weak and poor until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure, it varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move till Thou has wrought its chain;
Enslave it with Thy matchless love, and deathless it shall reign.


  1. […] was completed in five minutes.” (For another of Matheson’s hymns, see the second item under Today in 1816.) The hymn […]

  2. […] People, Come to St. George’s Windsor. (For a bit more about Mr. Elvey and his music, see Today in 1816.) Elvey also supplied the tune for a little known Christmas carol by Archer Thompson Gurney, Come […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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