Over the past few years I have researched and written over 200 hymn stories and commentaries. And I was surprised to learn that many of the adult hymns we sing today were originally written for children.
This hymn is one of them. It was written in 1843 and was originally titled “Come, Children, Join in Singing”. The author, Rev. Christian Henry Bateman, published it along with several of his other children’s hymns, in a songbook called Sacred Melodies for Children.
To be fair, the anthem didn’t originate with Bateman; it was a reworking of an 1836 hymn with the same music and meter, and similar lyrics written by William Hickson.
The anthem was hugely popular in Scotland and sold over 6 million copies. When Bateman discovered that adults liked to sing it too, he changed the word, Children, to Christians, to make it more universally functional.
The song is an invitation to sing the praises of God; an act that is referenced approximately 60 times in the book of Psalms. The people of God are called to: “Sing praises, sing praises to God! Sing the praises of our King, sing the praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:6-7).
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church asking them to “sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks.” (Eph.5:19-20)
The word “Alleluia” (or Hallelujah) means “praise the Lord”. The word “amen” means surely or truly. These words, coupled together, are repeated at the end of each phrase of this song, to remind and instruct the children (and all of us) to “Praise the Lord in truth.”
Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville, Tennessee. Your comments are welcome. You can contact him at [email protected] or by phone at (951) 321 9235.