Last year we looked at the song See the conqueror mounts in triumph, so let’s look at a different one today.
Crown him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon the throne;
Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own;
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King
Thro’ all eternity.
This stanza is steeped in imagery primarily from the book of the Revelation. The lamb (that was slain) upon a throne, thousands of worshipers singing in unison through all eternity… some pretty grand and epic descriptions adorn that book and this verse of the hymn.
Each of the following verses of the hymn explore a different epithet for Christ.
Crown him the Son of God
Before the worlds began…
This is paired with Crown him the Son of Man, giving us a summary of orthodox christology: Jesus is a one person with two natures in their entirety, fully God and fully man.
Crown him the Lord of life,
Who triumphed o’er the grave
This is where the Ascension gets mentioned – His glories now we sing, Who died and rose on high… This is all part of the joyful proclamation of his victory over death itself.
Crown him of lords the Lord,
Who over all doth reign
This is the hardest to sing because we’re used to the phrase “the Lord of lords” but it’s switched around a bit. The meaning is the same, though: his kingship extends over all creation because he is the incarnate Word who now lives in realms of light.
Crown him the Lord of heav’n,
Enthroned in worlds above;
Crown him the King, to whom is giv’n
The wondrous name of Love.
Crown him with many crowns,
As throne before him fall;
Crown him, ye kings, with many crowns,
For he is King of all.
There are other verses and versions out there, but this should suffice to give one a picture of what this hymn is doing.
One curiosity about these lyrics that is worth mentioning, however, is the fact that this is not a prayer. Most old hymns are, but this one is not. It speaks of Christ in the third person – crown him. From a lyrical perspective this is a devotional hymn; the singer is addressing a human audience, one’s fellow worshipers, one’s own soul. If you are appointing this song for a worship service, take this fact into account. It would make a good hymn of response (like to a reading, or an anthem after a sermon or something else), but doesn’t strictly fit the bill for a hymn of praise or adoration, as it never directly addresses God himself. This hymn exhorts the hearers to extol God, rather than actually extols God outright. Obviously it praises God most highly by implication, but it’s important to be honest about the function and content of the words we sing.
Anyway, sung to the tune DIADEMATA, this is an unforgettable hymn, unabashed to kneel before Jesus and afford him the fullness of fealty that our earthly images can muster.