Henry Downton served a number of Church of England parishes and in the 1860s was British Chaplain at Geneva. It was there in 1866 that he wrote this hymn, which speaks of the overseas mission of the Church as it was seen at that time of expansion of the British Empire. The Church Missionary Society took it up immediately, and it was sung that year at its annual meeting. Henry Smart served a number of churches in London as organist, and despite becoming blind for the last fifteen years of his life continued his playing at St Pancras Parish Church. He edited a number of books of hymns and psalms, both for Anglicans and Presbyterians. This tune appeared to other words in the English Presbyterian Hymns and Psalms for Divine Worship 1867. By 1874 it was set to these words in Church Hymns, edited by Sullivan, and in Anglican circles the connexion has remained as long as the words were thought fit to use.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2001