This is what you might call an open source hymn.
The text of the first stanza was originally published by “Rock of Ages” composer Augustus M. Toplady in his Gospel Magazine in 1779. One year later the same magazine published an eight stanza version of the hymn under the title, “On the Resurrection. The Lord is King.” These first two versions were both penned by Edward Perronet (pictured at left), by turns Anglican, Methodist revivalist, and Congregationalist, and long-time friend of the Wesley brothers.
The hymn was again printed in 1784 by George Burder (pictured at left), an engraver turned Congregationalist preacher (after a short stint with the Calvinist Methodists), who later became a big name in Christian publishing (most notably, the editor of Evangelical Magazine for a time). He included a four-stanza version of this hymn with some altered text in his Collection of Hymns by Various Authors. Burder gave it the name “The Coronation Hymn.”
In 1787, John Rippon (pictured at left with fantastic hair, even for his own time), again altered the text, most notably the final stanza. Compare Perronet’s original—
“Let every tribe and every tongue
That bound creation’s call,
Now shout in universal song
The crowned Lord of all.”
with Rippon’s now familiar version:
“O that with yonder sacred throng
We at his feet may fall,
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And crown him Lord of all.”
This hymn has historically been set to three different tunes: MILES LANE (or SHRUBSOLE), DIADEM, and CORONATION. Of these three, the third, a sturdy march written specifically for the text by Oliver Holden in 1793, is by far the most popular, unless we throw the much more recent Raise Up the Crown version (by Chris Tomlin, left) into the mix, which simply adds a bit of syncopation and a bridge to CORONATION.
This hymn is a bit of a stubborn mutt, passing through as many as three or four distinct protestant neighborhoods and never settling on any one doorstep. It seems to have insisted on its place in hymnody history. I like to think that that is perhaps due to the stubborn character of its original author. Prior to writing hymns, Perronet, the grandson of a French protestant refuge, wrote a book-length poem called The Mitre. John Julian, in his Dictionary of Hymnology, says this of Perronet’s work: “This strangely overlooked satire is priceless as a reflex of contemporary ecclesiastical opinion and sentiment. It is pungent, salted with wit, gleams with humour, hits off vividly the well-known celebrities in Church and State, and is well wrought in picked and packed words.” It also offended John Wesley to the point that Wesley called for its suppression. Even as Wesley did so, Perronet—this enigmatic self-proclaimed “true son” of the Church of England—joined the Wesley’s in their evangelical revivals. Perronet was known for his tenacious spirit. Consider this excerpt from John Wesley’s journal:
“From Rochdale went to Bolton, and soon found that the Rochdale lions were lambs in comparison with those of Bolton. Edward Perronet was thrown down and rolled in mud and mire. Stones were hurled and windows broken”
(Tyerman’s Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., 3 vols., 1870 ; vol. ii. 57).
He was also known for ruffling John Wesley’s feathers more than once, and they eventually split over the distribution of the sacraments. Author and hymnologist Greg Scheer describes Perronet as
“a sharp-tongued, difficult personality, who would rather pick a fight over theology than display brotherly love”
I must admit that I find it a bit refreshing to think that such a stately hymn of hope and promise came from the pen of a man as rough around the edges as Perronet. Likewise, the fact that this hymn enjoys so wide an ecumenical audience only serves to confirm that every sinner “whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall,” and “every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball,” will indeed spread their trophies at his feet, as we, the “seed of Israel’s chosen race” will “join the everlasting song” and
“Crown Him Lord of All!”