Come Ye Thankful People Come
by Lucy Adams
What messages were we speaking when we were 16 years old? Maybe a lot of silly talk and probably not what a young boy, named Henry, wrote in the front of his Bible:
"I do this day, in the presence of God and my own soul, renew my covenant with God and solemnly determine henceforth to become His, and to do His work as far as in me lies."
Henry Alford was born in London, England on October 7, 1810. He was nurtured by Christian parents and greatly influenced by a grandfather and a father who were Anglican clergyman. Their example before him, apparently led to his personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
Upon graduation from Trinity College, Cambridge, he began his lifelong ministry as theologian, poet and musician.
Dr. Alford was eventually appointed as dean of Canterbury Cathedral, known as the "mother-church of England".
His death in 1871 at the age of 61 left a void in the hearts of many people whom God had touched through his ministry. But the world was left with one of the most memorable hymns of thanksgiving. It was written to celebrate the times of harvest festival in the English countryside. It is an invitation to join the festivities in loving response to a faithful God:
"Come ye, thankful people, come. Raise the song of harvest home. All is safely gathered in er'e the winter storms begin."
The following two stanzas summarize the parable that Jesus tells about the wheat and tares in Matthew 13 . The hymn closes with a prayer of anticipation about "our final harvest home" which is heaven!
After it was first published in 1844, it appeared later in the Anglican church hymnal to be sung to a tune composed by the organist, George Elvey, in the royal chapel of Windsor Castle. It is the one we still use today.
Henry Alford fulfilled his commitment to his Lord, as he lived out the promise he made at age 16. His life was a testimony to that promise and this one song is a tribute to that life.
Praise God that we can also joyfully read in Psalm 100: "Make a joyful noise to the Lord" and we are free to "enter His gates with thanksgiving!"
Lucy N. Adams
Below is a YouTube video of the choir and congregation of (I assume, according to the caption) St. Georges's Cathedral at Windsor. The lyrics are provided so you can sing along.