Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook:

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:

Lutheran 1941 Hymnal:

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal:

Text by: James Montgomery (1771-1854) 1822





Freut euch, ihr lieben


Based upon Psalm 72

  1. Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
    great David’s greater Son!
    Hail in the time appointed,
    His reign on earth begun!
    He comes to break oppression,
    to set the captive free;
    to take away transgression
    and rule in equity.

    2. He comes in succor speedy
    to those who suffer wrong;
    to help the poor and needy,
    and bid the weak be strong;
    to give them songs for sighing,
    their darkness turn to light,
    whose souls, condemned and dying,
    were precious in His sight.

    3. By such shall He be fearèd
    while sun and moon endure;
    Beloved, obeyed, reverèd;
    for He shall judge the poor
    Through changing generations,
    with justice, mercy, truth,
    While stars maintain their stations,
    or moons renew their youth.

    4. He shall come down like showers
    upon the fruitful earth;
    Love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
    spring in His path to birth.
    Before Him, on the mountains,
    shall peace, the herald, go,
    and righteousness, in fountains,
    from hill to valley flow.

    5. Arabia’s desert ranger
    to Him shall bow the knee;
    the Ethiopian stranger
    His glory come to see;
    with offerings of devotion
    ships from the isles shall meet,
    to pour the wealth of oceans
    in tribute at His feet.

    6. Kings shall fall down before Him,
    and gold and incense bring;
    all nations shall adore Him,
    His praise all people sing;
    for He shall have dominion
    o’er river, sea and shore,
    far as the eagle’s pinion
    or dove’s light wing can soar.

    7. For Him shall prayer unceasing
    and daily vows ascend;
    His kingdom still increasing,
    a kingdom without end:
    the mountain dews shall nourish
    a seed in weakness sown,
    whose fruit shall spread and flourish
    and shake like Lebanon.

    8. O’er every foe victorious,
    He on His throne shall rest;
    from age to age more glorious,
    all blessing and all blest.
    the tide of time shall never
    His covenant remove;
    His name shall stand forever,
    His name to us is Love.

James Montgomery (1771-1854) was born in southwest Scotland and lived most of his adult life in the environs of London, England. From his childhood he had wanted to be a writer, but after flunking out of school he spent time apprenticing with a baker and then a store-keeper. After those failed, he found a position working for a publisher of a newspaper in Sheffield, England called the Sheffield Register.  This was just after the French Revolution which had led to significant social changes all across Europe, including England. The publisher was quite active in this cause, often using his newspaper to advocate for increased freedoms and rights for the subjects of the English Crown. Fearing imprisonment, he fled England, leaving the Register in Montgomery’s hands. After changing its name to The Sheffield Iris, Montgomery continued to use the newspaper to advocate for a change in government. He was imprisoned twice for his activities. He spent his imprisonment writing extensively, both prose and poetry.

While most of his poetry is no longer read, his hymns have found a permanent home in most Christian churches. The more famous hymns he wrote are: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed; Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire (one of many settings); Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Angels from the Realm of Glory; and The Lord is My Shepherd (not: The Lord’s My Shepherd).

Isaac Watts also paraphrased Psalm 72 for his hymn: “Great God, Whose Universal Sway” The early reformers, especially those from the Reformed tradition (Calvinist), drew directly from the Psalms for their hymn texts, employing poets to reset them into singable verse. This tradition which started in Geneva moved to the island of Britain shortly afterward through the work of the Scotsman William Kethe who had worked with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland.

So, let’s compare how these two hymn writers differed in their treatment of this Psalm. I will just use the first stanza from each hymn and the corresponding verses from the Psalm.


  1. Great God, whose universal sway
    the known and unknown worlds obey,
    Now givethe kingdom to Thy Son,
    extend his power, exalt his throne.


  1. Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
    great David’s greater Son!
    Hail in the time appointed,
    His reign on earth begun!
    He comes to break oppression,
    to set the captive free;
    to take away transgression
    and rule in equity.

Psalm 72:

1Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son.

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

The historical periods each man lived in can be seen in how they chose to set this text. In Watts’ time (1674-1748), England was very much on the ascendency with a rapidly growing empire. The social unrest which gripped the world, starting with the American revolt through the French revolution would not come for many years after his death. Watts draws the idea of power from phrases such as “Give the king” and “king’s son.” And living in a time and place where great power was vested within the royal family, it is not surprising that a notion of imperial authority which the world must obey should find its way into his text.

James Montgomery was born just as the unrest in the Colonies was beginning to take shape and as an adolescent, he would hear all about the quest for self-rule and the establishment of a new country without a monarchy. He could clearly see the consequences of autocratic rule all around him. The lack of redress for the common man and woman against a capricious ruling class would have met him on the street every day. So he transforms the call for righteous judgement to a breaking of the oppression and setting the captive free.

This is not to say one man’s work is better than the other. But rather, like all of our own work, the times we live in inexorably infuse whatever we do. It can be quite difficult to know where truth ends and our culture begins.