Keeping the Hymns Close By

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Author – James Montgomery, 1771 – 1854
Composer – Henry Smart, 1813 – 1879
Tune Name – “Regent Square”
Written in 1816

Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Psalm 148:2

James Montgomery (1771-1854) followed in the footsteps of two poetic luminaries—Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. In many hymnals he is well represented, third only to Watts and Wesley for British hymn writers before 1850.
James’ father was a Moravian pastor in Scotland, but he and his wife felt God’s call to be missionaries in the West Indies. James remained in Yorkshire and from age six was raised in a boarding school. He began writing poetry at age 10, inspired by the hymns of the Moravians, that influenced John Wesley. Young James received word of the sudden death of both of his parents on the mission field. Though he flunked out of school at age 14, Montgomery found a job at a weekly newspaper, the Sheffield Register in London. At age 23, he was appointed editor of paper maintaining this position for the next 31 years. Through this influential paper Montgomery championed many different causes, including the abolition of slavery. Chief among them was the gospel. Despite the loss of his parents, James remained devoted to Christ and to the Scriptures, and he championed the cause of foreign missions and the British Bible Society.
Early on Christmas Eve, 1816, James opened his Bible to Luke 2, and was deeply impressed by verse 13 – “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,”. Pondering the story of the heralding angels, he took his pen and started writing. By the end of the day, his new Christmas poem was being read in the pages of his newspaper. Later it was published in a hymnal titled Montgomery’s Original Hymns and was known as “Good Tiding of Great Joy to All People.” It was set to music and was first sung on Christmas Day, 1821, in a Moravian Church in England.
The melody, known as “Regent Square,” was composed by Henry Smart. Although largely self-taught, Smart was recognized as one of the finest organists and composers in the British Isles in his day. He was totally blind for the last fifteen years of his life, yet he continued to play and write some of his finest music. “Regent Square” was written during this period of blindness. Henry Smart is also the composer of the “Lancashire” tune, used for the hymn text, “Lead On, O King Eternal”.

Taken from Joy to the World! Copyright © 1999 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
Used by permission from “History of Hymns” by Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program and Distinguished Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

James Montgomery

Henry Smart

Henry Smart