James Montgomery is our greatest lay hymn-writer. He was a journalist, owner and editor for many years of the Sheffield Iris, where he championed policies and views not popular with authority. Indeed he was twice put in prison for short periods because of this. Having begun life as a Moravian, he became a Methodist and ended as an Anglican. He wrote this hymn for the Sheffield Sunday School and it was used at their Anniversary in 1829. It is unassuming in style, yet its theme is the astounding scenes, recounted in the book Revelation, of the worship of heaven itself. Perhaps we see something of the radical journalist here too as the might of Church and State set aside their earthly status to join in the song.
William Maclagan began his life as a soldier in India. Having been invalided out, he was ordained, served a number of churches in London, became Bishop of Lichfield and Archbishop of York. He wrote a number of modest hymn tunes.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2002