Keeping the Hymns Close By

Come, Ye Thankful People

Author – Henry Alford, 1810 – 1871
Composer – George J. Elvey, 1816 – 1893
Tune Name – “St. George’s, Windsor”
Written in 1844

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2  

“Come, Ye Thankful People” is considered to be one of the most choice harvest-thanksgiving hymns in all of hymnody. It was written for the English Harvest Festival, the British version of the American Thanksgiving holiday. Its author, Henry “Dean” Alford, was a gifted Christian leader of the nineteenth century.
Henry Alford was born in London on October 7, 1810 and even from childhood showed remarkable promise. At six, he wrote a biography of the apostle Paul. When he was ten, he wrote a pamphlet titled, “Looking unto Jesus: the Believers Support under Trials and Afflictions.”
When he was sixteen, Henry penned a note in his Bible describing his rededication to Christ: “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.”
At Cambridge University, Alford distinguished himself as a student and writer, and, upon graduation in 1832, he began his public ministry in London. He rose rapidly from one position to another, until he was named Dean of Canterbury Cathedral at the age of forty-seven. He served there until his death in 1871.
Henry Alford is remembered for his scholarly books, including his classic Greek New Testament, the fruit of eighteen years of labor. Hymnology was one of his major interests. His two volume set of psalms and hymns was published in 1844. Of these many works, “Come, Ye Thankful People” is still in general use in most evangelical hymnals.
This hymn was originally titled “After Harvest” and contained seven stanzas, but only four have remained in common usage. The first stanza is an invitation and exhortation to give thanks to God in the earthly temple –His Church–for the heavenly care and provision of earthly needs. The following two stanzas are a commentary on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13. The final stanza is a prayer for the Lord’s return–“the final harvest home”– the culminating event that Henry Alford sees as the ultimate demonstration of God’s goodness in His eternal purpose of man’s Redemption.
It is said that at the end of a hard day’s work, as well as after every meal, is was customary practice for “Dean” Alford to stand to his feet and give thanks to God for the blessings just received or enjoyed during the day. This spirit of perpetual gratitude is clearly evidenced throughout this hymn.
The composer of this tune, “St. George’s Windsor” was George J,. Elvey, who served as organist for forty-seven years a the historic, royal chapel at Windsor Castle in England. Elvey is also the composer of the familiar hymn tune “Diademata,” generally used with such hymn texts as “Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “Soldiers of Christ Arise.”

Hymn photos are courtesy of National Portrait Gallery
Taken from 101 More Hymn Stories Copyright © 1985, 2013 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition  by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson
Henry Alford

Henry Alford

George Elvey

George Elvey