Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
Source: Singing the Faith: 228
Words: James Montgomery (from Psalm 72)
Music: “Crüger (Herrnhut)” by Johann Crüger adapted William Henry Monk
“Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” is perhaps the most well-known hymn of the four included in Singing the Faith by James Montgomery (1771 – 1854). Often sung during Advent, a period of watching and waiting for God’s justice and vision to be seen in the coming of Christ, its words take on refreshed power in the light of the issues against which Montgomery fought, including slavery. A journalist who wrote about the evils of the trade, he also wrote an epic anti-slavery poem called ‘The West Indies’. Here he writes of God-in-Christ:
He comes to break oppression,
to set the captive free…
He comes, with succour speedy,
to those who suffer wrong;
to help the poor and needy,
and bid the weak be strong.
James Montgomery wrote around 400 hymns altogether, including another hymn associated with the Christmas season, Angels from the realms of glory (StF 190).
He was born in 1771 into a Moravian family (his father was a Moravian minister in Irvine, Ayshire). He was sent to the Moravian seminary at Fulneck near Leeds, to train for the ministry, but abandoned this and became an apprentice baker and later a shop assistant. Aged 21, he moved to Sheffield and became assistant to as Mr Gales, editor and owner of the Sheffield Register, a radical newspaper. Gales fled the country in 1794 to avoid a political prosecution, and Montgomery took over the paper, renaming it the Sheffield Iris. He was subsequently imprisoned twice in York Castle, once for printing a song celebrating the Fall of the Bastille, and once for printing an account of a political riot in Sheffield. Less controversially, “Angels, from the realms of glory” also made its first appearance in the Iris.
Montgomery became a well-known figure in Sheffield (a memorial statue stands in the cathedral grounds); he was outspoken in his support for foreign missions and the Bible Society, and fearless in his denunciation of the slave trade, child chimney-sweeps and state lotteries. He also associated himself with the Wesleyan Methodists, particularly in their Sunday School work.
Read more about James Montgomery.