All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name
Eighteenth century England suffered a spiritual lukewarmness. The churches were filled with aristocrats and the rising merchant class, and the poor were completely neglected by the church. Charles and John Wesley tried to reform the church of England. The dissention started by the Wesleyan movement did have some effect on the church of England. Several congregations of the church of England did awaken to the luke-warmness and indifference, and they declared themselves independent of the hierarchy and the traditions of the state religion.
Edward Perronet (1721-1792) was one of the preachers that associated himself with the independent churches of England. Perronet was a very emotional man, and his criticisms of the established church were often severe. For a time he served as the private chaplain to the Countess of Hunington until his extreme criticisms offended her. He then became the "pastor" of a small chapel in Canterbury. Perronet's emotional nature found a good outlet in writing poetry. In 1785 he published his poetry anonymously.
John Rippon edited a song book in 1789, and during the course of his research he encountered a copy of Perronet's poetry. He published several of the poems from that book in his song book. One of these poems was, "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name." The poem was set to music by the composer, William Shubsole.
The editors of later song books began to realize that this song was becoming popular, so it was included in many more books. The editors tried to find the name of the poet, but they had a difficult time tracing the authorship of the lyrics. As late as 1892 it was still in doubt. It wasn't until 1915 that Perronet's authorship was proven. Final proof came from Dr. Louis F. Benson who discovered that the first letter in each word of one of the poems in Perronet's collection spelled "E D W A R D PERRONET."
When this song was brought to America, the music of William Shrubsole was not adapted to American song books. Instead, Oliver Holden of Charlestown, Massachusetts composed his own version of the music in 1793. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was traditional for the musical composer to name his musical work separately from the lyrics. Holden called his masterpiece, "Coronation." This is the musical version that we sing today When our brethren became involved in the controversy over premillennialism, an acute sensitivity developed toward the possible teaching of premillennialism in our songs. Many brethren branded Perronet's song as teaching premillennialism. Early song books used by our brethren contained this song, such books as: The Gospel Call (1891) by Coombs, The Gospel Gleaner (1903) by F.L. Eiland, and The Good Old Songs (1912) by Cayce. But later publications began to omit this song, such books as: Christian Hymns, Nos. 1, 2, & 3 (1935, 1948, 1966) by Sanderson, and many of the books of Tillit S. Teddlie, and some of the books of Will Slater. But not all brethren have rejected this song. It is still printed in the Great Songs of the Church (1937), song books printed by the Firm Foundation, and the Sacred Selections for The Church (1962) by Crum.
Perronet was not trying to teach premillennialism in his song. This hymn is a salutation to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a historical description of his resurrection, ascension, and present reign. Some have asked, "If this interpretation is true, then why does the author use the present tense of his verbs?" The use of the present tense in describing events of the past is a poetic technique used by some writers. This technique has not been used often, but it is a valid technique. John Kent describes our future home in heaven in his song On Zion's Glorious Summit, by using the past, present, and future tenses of his verbs. Charles Wesley used the present tense of his verbs to describe an event of Bible history: the Birth of Jesus. "Hark! The Herald Angels sing, glory to the new born king. . .Christ is born in Bethlehem.. . Mild, he lays his glory by. . .etc." The purpose of using the present tense to describe a past event is to give the singer a sense of being there when it happened.
In spite of the validity of the use of this poetic technique, there is still a strong sense of doctrinal sensitivity associated with this song, so brother Ellis Crum has made his own arrangement of the words in his new song book. He re-writes the lyrics to read, "All hail the pow'r of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall. They bro't the royal di-a-dem and crowned Him Lord of All."
If Perronet intended to teach premillennialism, he would have used the future tense of his verbs throughout the song, not the present tense.
John Rippon, the editor that first printed this song, wrote the fourth stanza of the song himself. He felt that this stanza was a needed amendment to Perronet's work to build to a climax our feeling of personal involvement with the theme of the song.
"All Hail The Power" is a very beautiful song. The music of Oliver Holden is one of the great attractions of the song, but his music would not hold the same attraction in the absence of the beautiful thought of the kingship of Jesus. If we can disassociate our own preconceived ideas and sing this song with the same intentions shared by the original author, then we can sing acceptable worship to our God with this song.
— Houma, Louisiana