Hymn Story

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Hymn lists
by book of Bible

This is a traditional harvest song that we associate with Thanksgiving Day.  It speaks of things unfamiliar to most city dwellers today—the harvest “safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.”  Anyone who has ever lived in a farming community knows the urgency associated with the harvest.  The fruit of a whole year’s work hang on the harvest, which cannot be accomplished until the crop is ready and which must be accomplished quickly then lest it be spoiled by pests or weather.  During the busy harvest season, farmers literally work day and night to get the job done.  Only after the harvest is there time to relax and celebrate.

But even if we aren’t farmers, we can appreciate the urgency of deadlines—the joy of an important job well done—the relief of a respite after a busy time at work.

This hymn was written by Henry Alford, a 19th century Anglican clergyman.  Alford was quite a remarkable person.  At age six, he wrote a biography of the Apostle Paul.  At age ten, he wrote a pamphlet entitled, “Looking Unto Jesus the Believers’ Support Under Trials and Afflictions.”  At age 16, he committed his life to Christian service, and served nearly half a century as an Anglican clergyman.  For the last 14 years of his life, he served as dean of the Canterbury Cathedral.

Alford wrote 48 books—the most important being a four-volume commentary on the Greek New Testament.  He wrote several hymns, but this is only one that is widely sung today.

Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan