Posted by: rcottrill | December 24, 2010

Today in 1816 – Angels from the Realms published

James Montgomery wrote about 400 hymns. Quite a few of them are still found in our hymnals today. Among them are the following:

According to Thy Gracious Word
Angels from the Realms of Glory
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
In the Hour of Trial
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire
Stand Up and Bless the Lord
We Bid Thee Welcome in the Name

Montgomery wrote Angels from the Realms of Glory–considered his finest hymn–for publication in the Christmas Eve edition of the Sheffield Iris, the newspaper of which he was the editor.

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

I invite you to listen to two outstanding versions of this carol. Both make use of the tune Gloria, to which we sing Angels We Have Heard on High, rather than the tune Regent Square traditionally used with Angels from the Realms of Glory. (For me, Gloria becomes a bit too repetitious. I prefer Regent Square.) The video clip below features a cascade of beautiful sound by the King’s College Choir. But you owe it to yourself to listen to the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle Choir rending, here, complete with bells, and the stunning voice of Sissel Kyrkjebo, Norway’s wonderful gift to the world of music. (A voice of great range and crystal clarity, right to the final high B flat.)

(2) Today in 1866 – Annie Flint Born
Graphic Annie Johnson FlintAnnie Johnson Flint was one of America’s greatest devotional poets. The daughter of Eldon Johnson, she lost both her parents at the age of 6, and was adopted by a childless couple named Flint. She trained as a teacher, and was also a skilled pianist with hopes of a future career on the concert stage. Then came the sudden and severe onset of crippling arthritis. In a short time, not only were her fingers painfully bent and swollen, but she found it difficult to walk. The disease left her bedridden for the rest of her life.

But when God closes one door, He will open another. While still a small child, she had trusted Christ as her Saviour, and over the years her spiritual insight seemed to grow deeper and deeper. Prevented from a musical expression of her artistic gifts, Miss Flint began writing poetry. When she could no longer grip a pen, she used a typewriter, punching the keys with her knuckles. Before her death in 1932, Miss Flint had produced books of verse that have been a blessing to many ever since.

Several of her poems have become gospel songs. And given the severe trials she experienced, they are moving testimonies to the grace of God. I encourage you to check out the full text of both of the following in the Cyber Hymnal. They are rich with spiritual meaning. From 1919 comes God Hath Not Promised.

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

An undated poem, He Giveth More, has also been set to music. Here is the second stanza and the refrain:

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

(3) Today in 1949 – William Poole Died
William Charles Poole put his faith in Christ at the age of 11, and became a Methodist clergyman in the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. With the encouragement of hymn writer Charles Gabriel, he wrote many hymn texts. Among those in common use today are Sunrise Tomorrow, and  Just When I Need Him Most.

Just when I need Him, Jesus is near,
Just when I falter, just when I fear;
Ready to help me, ready to cheer,
Just when I need Him most.

Just when I need Him most,
Just when I need Him most,
Jesus is near to comfort and cheer,
Just when I need Him most.

Just when I need Him, Jesus is true,
Never forsaking all the way through;
Giving for burdens pleasures anew,
Just when I need Him most.


  1. Several years ago I wrote the following commentary on “Angels From the Realms of Glory”:

    This carol addresses all the major groups involved with the birth of Christ, and gives them, as it were, “before-the-fact” instructions; then, in the refrain, invites them and us to “Come and worship, Come and Worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King.”

    To the Angels:
    Angels from the realms of Glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
    Ye who sang Creation’s story, Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

    To the Shepherds:
    Shepherds, in the fields abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night,
    God with man is now residing, Yonder shines the Infant Light.

    To the Wise Men:
    Sages, leave your contemplations, Brighter visions beam afar;
    Seek the great Desire of nations*, Ye have seen his natal star. *Haggai 2:7

    The fourth stanza is addressed to two people not referred to in any other piece of sacred music that I am aware of: Simeon and Anna. Think about how this verse describes these two Godly people.
    Saints before the altar bending, Watching long in hope and fear;
    Suddenly the Lord, descending, In His temple shall appear. (Luke 2:25-38.)

    Rev. James Montgomery (1771–1854) wrote this soundly Scriptural carol, one of his approximately-400 hymns. He was born in Scotland but lived most of his life in England, where he was a newspaper editor, hymn writer, and advocate of hymn singing in Anglican worship services.

    • What an interesting thought! That the “saints before the altar bending” are Simeon and Anna. It certainly fits. Well done.

      • Simeon and Anna surely do appear in other hymns and anthems for the Feast of the Presentation (February 2), and by name.

        O Zion, open wide thy gates

        Hail to the Lord who comes

        and the Johannes Eccard anthem When to the temple Mary went

        No doubt there are more.

      • You are correct. Here is the stanza from “O Zion, Open Wide Thy Gates”:

        The agèd Simeon sees at last
        His Lord, so long desired,
        And Anna welcomes Israel’s hope,
        With holy rapture fired.

        “Hail to the Lord Who Comes” mentions Simeon, but not Anna. I’m not familiar with the anthem. But Simeon also gets an honourable mention in “Thou Light of Gentile Nations”:

        Thou Light of Gentile nations, Thou Saviour from above,
        Drawn by Thy Spirit’s leading, we come with joy and love
        Into Thy holy temple and wait with earnest mind
        As Simeon once had waited His God and Lord to find.

        And in “A Little Child Is Born Tonight” we have:

        A little Child is born tonight,
        To hearts for long years lone,
        To Anna, widow, Simeon, sage
        Their Star of childhood, joy of age,
        For evermore their own.

        So! Not familiar hymns to most of us. But Simeon and Anna seem to be well represented in Christmas hymnody overall. Thanks for the input.

  2. […] more than 400 hymns, quite a number of which are still in use. (For a list of a few of these, see Today in 1816.) Montgomery’s hymn, Stand Up and Bless the Lord, was produced on this date in in 1824 for the […]

  3. […] James Montgomery contributed many fine hymns to our traditional hymnody. Angels from the Realms of Glory is considered his best, but he also wrote Stand Up and Bless the Lord, Go to Dark Gethsemane, and We Bid Thee Welcome. For more about his work, see Today in 1771 and Today in 1816, […]

  4. Simeon and Anna surely do appear in other hymns and anthems for the Feast of the Presentation (February 2), and by name. O Zion, Open Wide Thy Gates, Hail to the Lord Who Comes, and the Johannes Eccard anthem When to the Temple Mary Went. No doubt there are more.

    • Thanks for the information. I deal mainly with the more common congregational hymns, but I’m always glad to expand the usefulness of the blog. 🙂

  5. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  6. […] you do if you were a concert pianist and suddenly lost the use of your fingers? That happened to Annie Johnson Flint. Or what would you do if you were a pastor, and a preacher of the gospel, and suddenly lost your […]

  7. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  8. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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