Saturday, July 11, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 12

James Montgomery, Poet, Hymn Writer, Publisher

One of the striking differences between early Methodist hymnbooks and modern ones is the total number of hymns included. Early hymnals did not contain the music. The choir master or preacher was instructed to find suitable tunes for the hymns. The absence of music meant there was much more room for hymns. Each hymnal revision has been a painful exercise in deciding what hymns to leave out since new hymns are always being written, and modern Methodists demand their inclusion in new hymnals.

One of the prolific hymn writers of two hundred years ago who is little know today is James Montgomery (1771-1854). Montgomery was a poet, publisher, and lecturer. He also wrote 400 hymns. The readers would probably be familiar with Angels from the Realm of Glory, and Hail to the Lord’s Anointed.

During this second week of July when newly appointed pastors have been with their new congregations for one month, we lift up a Montgomery hymn intended to be sung when a new pastor came to a church. It is a powerful expression of the covenant relationship that should exist between a pastor and congregation and deserves to be brought back into common use.

We bid thee welcome in the name
Of Jesus, our exalted Head.
Come as a servant, so He came,
And we receive thee in His stead.
Come as a shepherd—guard and keep
This fold from hell and world and sin;
Nourish the lambs and feed the sheep;
The wounded heal, the lost bring in.
Come as a teacher—sent from God,
Charged His whole counsel to declare.
Lift o’er our ranks the prophet’s rod
While we uphold thy hands with prayer.
Come as an angel—hence to guide
A band of pilgrims on their way,
That, softly walking at thy side,
We fail not, faint not, turn nor stray.
Come as a watchman—take thy stand
Upon the tower amidst the sky,
And when the sword comes on the land,
Call us to fight, or warn to fly.
Come as a messenger of peace,
Filled with the Spirit, fired with love;
Live to behold our large increase
And die to meet us all above.


Blogger Eric said...

Regarding your endorsement of the poem by James Montgomery in your July 12 posting:
Amen and Amen!

10:58 AM  

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