|We don’t know who wrote this hymn —and that might be what the author intended. This is a story of a hymn of praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that some might have considered subversive.
This hymn originally appeared in a small pamphlet in 1757 along with another hymn by Charles Wesley. That led some people to believe that Wesley wrote “Come, Thou Almighty King” as well—but we have no evidence to that effect other than the hymn’s appearance in that little pamphlet along with another Wesley hymn.
So why would anyone consider this hymn to be subversive? Perhaps because it appeared about fifteen years after another song was written—”God Save Our Gracious King”—the British national anthem. While the hymn is now sung to a tune quite different from the anthem, they were originally sung to the same tune. The hymn might well have been written to call Christians to a higher allegiance than allegiance to the British king.
During the Revolutionary War, British soldiers entered a Long Island church on a Sunday morning and ordered the congregation to sing, “God Save Our Gracious King.” The congregation responded by singing, “Come, Thou Almighty King”—different words—a higher calling— sung to the same tune. I haven’t seen a report of the outcome, but I can imagine the soldiers being quite perplexed about what to do next.
So it is entirely possible that the person who wrote this hymn may have intended to remain anonymous to avoid prosecution for subversion.
Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan