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Come Now, Almighty King

posted Jun 5, 2012, 7:04 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 8:12 AM ]
We don't know who wrote the text for this hymn – and that might be what the author intended.  For although it was written to commemorate Trinity Sunday, in its beginning it was considered subversive. 

It first appears in 1757 printed on a small pamphlet with a hymn by Charles Wesley.  That has led some people to believe he wrote it, though there's no evidence to that effect.  It was originally intended to be sung to the same tune as God Save Our Gracious King.  And though that tune had been written only fifteen years earlier, by virtue of its widespread popularity, rather than by any official action, it had already come to be recognized as the national hymn of England.  Yet this new text, which also became instantly popular, called Christians to a higher allegiance than that to the British King.

During the American Revolution, British soldiers one Sunday morning interrupted a Long Island church service and commanded the congregation to sing God Save Our Gracious King.  The organist started the tune we now know as America or My Country, 'Tis of Thee, but the patriotic colonists, true to their cause and to God, responded by singing Come Now, Almighty King – different words with a higher calling – yet sung to the same tune. 

Most scholars agree that this newer text was probably written as an act of rebellion and as a substitute for the words of the royal hymn, providing a good reason for the author to remain anonymous.

In 1769, Felice de Giardini composed a new melody specifically for this text so that it would stop being considered subversive in The Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes Sung at the Chapel of the Lock Hospital.  Known as the ITALIAN HYMN, it was republished in 1917 in 55 Songs and Choruses for Community Singing.  This version has become one of the most popular and widely used hymns addressed to the Trinity, translated into several languages.