Keeping the Hymns Close By

Come, Christians, Join to Sing

Author – Christian Henry Bateman, 1813- 1899
Tune – MADRID, arranged by Benjamin Carr, 1769 – 1831
Published in 1843

Serve the LORD with gladness: Come before His presence with singing. Psalm 100:2
Many of our “adult” hymns were originally written for children. “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” is a good example. So is Isaac Watts’ great hymn, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” which first appeared in his Divine and Moral Songs for Children. “Onward, Christian Solders” was written for the youngsters of Horbury, England, to sing on a Monday morning in 1865 as they marched to a nearby village to establish a Sunday school.

Here’s another instance: “Come, Christians, Join to Sing” first appeared in Sacred Melodies for Children, published in Edinburgh in 1843. The original words said, “Come, children, join to sing…”

Its author, Christian Henry Bateman. a pastor in Edinburgh, was committed to developing Sunday school in which children sang the great truths of the Christian faith. Bateman had begun his ministry as a Moravian pastor, but moved to Edinburgh and became a Congregational minister and the pastor of Richmond Place Congregational Church, where he was serving when he wrote this hymn. He was later ordained in the Church of England and ministered there until his retirement in 1884.

“Come Christians, Join to Sing” originally had five stanzas, but Bateman reduced the hymn to its present form in the 1854 edition of his hymnal, Sacred Melodies for Sabbath Schools and Families. The tune, MADRID, was a popular Spanish folk melody arranged for this hymn by Benjamin Carr, who was born in London in 1759, and died in Philadelphia in 1831. In England, Carr was a well-known singer with the London Ancient Concerts. Immigrating to America, he joined his father and brother in a music publishing enterprise. He also served as a church organist and music director in Philadelphia for many years.

Bateman’s text contains direct, uncomplicated language suitable for children. The hymn is easy for children to learn and sing. Each stanza begins with an exhortation – an imperative command to “Come” or “Praise.” In stanza one, Bateman provides the children with the reason for singing: ” We offer “loud praise to Christ our King….before His throne….” Christ desires our praise: “Praise is His gracious choice….”

Stanza two reassures the children (and all of us) that this King is also “our guide and friend” and that “His love shall never end.” This King will “condescend” to be a friend to the children. To condescend surely did not mean to patronize as it tends to mean today, but implies that Christ the King humbles Himself to be in a personal relationship with us.

Stanza three ends on an eschatological note. The author reassures children that they need not fear death. Beyond life, our songs will continue on “heaven’s blissful shore…singing forevermore: Alleluia! Amen!”

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Book 2 by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2004 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.
Benjamin Carr

Benjamin Carr