The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hark, How All The Welkin Rings

"Hymn For Christmas Day"
"Sun of Righteousness"

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Hymns and Sacred Poems,
1739, 1743.

Music: Dent Dale
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Meter: 77 77

Source: John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems. Fourth Edition.
(Bristol: Felix Farley, 1743), pp. 142-3.   

1. HARK how all the Welkin rings
" Glory to the King of Kings,
" Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
" GOD and Sinners reconcil'd !

2. Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumph of the Skies;
Universal Nature say,
" Christ the Lord is born to Day!

3. Christ, by highest Heav'n ador'd,
Christ, the Everlasting Lord,
Late in Time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin's Womb.

4. Veil'd in Flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th' Incarnate Deity !
Pleas'd as Man with Men t'appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here !

5. Hail the Heav'nly* Prince of Peace !
Hail the Sun of Righteousness !
Light and Life to All he brings,
Ris'n with Healing in his Wings.

*Said to have been changed by the Wesleys to "heaven-born" in later editions (although I've been unable to locate which editions contained these changes). Copied by Whitefield in his 1758 edition and by Madan in his 1767 edition.

6. Mild he lays his Glory by ;
Born ; that Man no more may die,
Born ; to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born ; to give them Second Birth.

7. Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in Us thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman's Conqu'ring Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent's Head.

8. Now display thy saving Pow'r,
Ruin'd Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to Ours, and Ours to Thine.

9. Adam's likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy Love.

10. Let us Thee, tho' lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Heav'nly* Man:
O ! to All Thyself impart,
Form'd in each Believing Heart.

* or Inner in the 1739 edition according to some sources, and in G. Osborn, ed., The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley. Vol. 1 (London: Wesleyan-Methodist Conference Office, 1868), pp. 183-184. Their notes state that the verses they reproduced were identical to the 1739 edition, and "Reprinted from the originals with the last corrections of the authors."

See also the version and notes at the Duke Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition, Charles Wesley's Published Verse <http://www.divinity.duke.edu/wesleyan/texts/cw_published_verse.html>, accessed October 17, 2009.

Texts from John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems. Fourth Edition.
(Bristol: Felix Farley, 1743), pp. 142-3.

Sheet Music from John Clark Hollister, ed., The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863, 1865), #18, p. 37.

Sheet Music "Mendelssohn" from Henry Sloane Coffin and Ambrose White Vernon, eds., Hymns of the Kingdom of God. New York: The A. S. Barnes Company, 1910, #42, p. 78.
Meter: 77 77 D


Versions on this site include:

Also found in Roundell Palmer, ed., The Book of Praise. Boston: Sever, Francis, & Co., 1870, # XXXIV, pp. 40-41.

Note from Palmer:

“The text is that of the fourth edition (1743) of Hymns and Sacred Poems, by John and Charles Wesley; differing in one word only (“Heavenly” instead of “Inner,” in the second line of the last stanza) from the first edition, published in 1739. The common variation, beginning “Hark, the herald angels sing,” is probably by Martin Madan (1760) who, besides altering several lines, has left out part (but no the whole) of the last two stanzas, which are usually omitted at the end of modern editions of the New Version of the Psalms. The word “welkin,” in the first line, is open to criticism, but in other respects I prefer Wesley's original to Madan's variation.”

Editor's Note: It appears that it was George Whitefield who in 1758 instituted changes to the first verse, and omission of verses eight and ten. Madan's earliest edition was apparently 1760. The changes made in the Madan edition of 1767 are noted below; the 1767 edition is the earliest that I have been able to see.

George Whitefield, ed., A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship. Seventh Edition. (London: William Strahan, 1758), Hymn 31, pp. 24-25. Changed verses (with changes in italics) include:

1. HARK! the Herald Angels sing
Glory to the new-born King !

Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and Sinners reconciled.

2. Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumphs of the Skies;
Nature rise and worship him,
Who is born at Bethlehem.

5. Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace !
Hail the Sun of Righteousness !
Light and Life around he brings,
Ris'n with Healing in his Wings.

6. Mild he lays his Glory by ;
Born that Men no more may die,
Born to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born to give them second Birth.

7. Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in Us thy heav'nly Home,
Rise the Woman's Conqu'ring Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent's Head.

9. Adam's likeness now efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Work it in us by thy Love.

Editor's Note: Verses 8 and 10 above are omitted by Whitefield. Changes in punctuation and capitalization are ignored. The next set of permanent changes were made by Martin Madan in 1760 or 1767:

Martin Madan, ed., Collection of Psalms and Hymns. Fifth Edition With An Appendix (London: Henry Cook, 1767), Hymn #8, pp. 8-9. Changed verses (with changes in italics) include:

1. HARK! the Herald-Angels sing
Glory to the new-born King !

Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and Sinners reconciled.

2. Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumphs of the Skies;
With th' angelic Host proclaim,
" Christ is born in Bethlehem!

3. Christ by highest Heav'n ador'd,
Christ the Everlasting Lord !
Late in Time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's Womb.

5. Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace !
Hail the Sun of Righteousness !
Light and Life to all he brings,
Ris'n with Healing in his Wings !

9. Adam's likeness now efface,
Stamp thine Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy Love.

Editor's Note: Verses 8 and 10 above are omitted by Madan as well. Since the earliest Madan edition appears to be 1760, it would appear that George Whitefield (in 1758) was the author of the changes to the first two lines of the first verse and Madan who made the changes to the third line of the second verse.

Changes in punctuation and capitalization are ignored.

Alternate fifth verse from John Clark Hollister, ed., The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863, 1865), #18, p. 37. The lines are reversed from the original, where the last line becomes the first, the third line becomes the second, etc.:

5. Risen with healing in his wings,
Light and life to all he brings;
Hail the Sun of righteousness,
Hail the heaven-born Prince of peace.

Editor's Note:

The hymn underwent many changes from the time that Wesley first penned these words until the present day, including the changes by George Whitefield, Martin Madan, and at least three others.

A careful comparison of the changes made by a number of individuals, as outlined by Dr. John Julian in his Dictionary of Hymnology, mostly showed alternate changes to two phrases, apparently a battle of differing religious beliefs. Three of the individuals whose collections were involved in these battles were

Over time, other individuals also made changes to the hymn, but were not adopted by later editors, as for example John Kempthorne, Select Portions of Psalms. Fourth Edition. (Bristol: Albion Press, 1823), p.26.

Seventy years after the hymn was adopted by M. Madan, the Wesleyan Conference embodied it in the Supplement to the Wesleyan Hymn Book, 1830, No. 602; and repeated it in the revised edition, 1875, No. 683. This is Madan's text with the omission of stanza ii. of Wesley's original, which was also stanza ii. of Madan's arrangement. The only common change from Madan was found in the second verse:

Pleased as man with men to dwell

According to Dr. Julian, this change occurred in Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1861 and 1875; The Hymnary, 1872; Thring, 1882, "and many others."

According to Julian, the first occurrence of the common refrain,

Hark! the Herald Angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born king."

occurs in Brady and Tate, A New Version of the Psalms of David, "University Editions," Oxford or Cambridge, in their editions dated 1782, 1791, 1802, 1803, and 1807 (and others that I've seen including 1818, 1834, and 1839) -- but not the Supplement issued by Rivington, 1779 and following. A check of the Whitefield hymnals of 1785 and 1801 shows that the refrain was not in use in those hymnals. It also occurs in Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1869, Hymn 43, pp. 40-41, and later.

A quick glance at a few other contemporary hymnals shows that this version is widely employed, with few changes.

Lutheran Worship, #49 – Identical

The Baptist Hymnal, #28 – Identical

Today's Missal (Oregon Catholic Press, Nov. 28, 2010-April 16, 2011), #65, changes in the last two lines of the third verse:

     Born to raise us from the earth,
     Born to give us second birth.

The Hymnal 1982 (the Episcopal Church), #87, rearranges the language of the third verse, together with a few of the language substitutions used in Today's Missal.

     Mild he lays his glory by,
     Born that we no more may die;
     Born to raise us from the earth,
     Born to give us second birth.
     Risen with healing in his wings
     Light and life to all he brings,
     Hail the Sun of righteousness!
     Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Plus Refrain.

In the main, however, the hymn originally penned by Wesley was changed only by Whitefield and Madan, the change to the second verse noted above ("to dwell"), and the 1782 addition of the refrain.

We don't know what Charles Wesley thought about the many changes to his hymn, some of which were made during his lifetime, but his brother John had this to say in the Preface to the 1780 edition:

"Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honour to reprint many of our Hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse.

"Therefore, I must beg of them one of these two favours; either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse; or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men."

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