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). It fits well with the season of Advent, during which we watch and wait for God’s justice and vision to be seen in the coming of Christ. The hymn’s words take on refreshed power if we also recall the issues against which Montgomery fought, including slavery. A journalist who wrote about the evils of the trade, he also penned an epic anti-slavery poem called ‘The West Indies’. In this hymn, 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, Ayrshire; he and his wife would both die while working as missionaries in the West Indies while James was still young. He was sent to the Moravian seminary at Fulneck near Leeds, to train for the ministry, but his academic record was poor and abandoned this calling to become an apprentice baker and later a shop assistant.
Aged 21, Montgomery moved to Sheffield and became assistant to 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.
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.