When Henry Alford was only sixteen years old, he wrote a statement of faith in the front of his Bible: “I do this day, in the presence of GOD and my own soul, renew my covenant with GOD and solemnly determine henceforth to become His, and to do His work as far as in me lies.”
Alford was born in London on Oct. 7, 1810. He was nurtured by Christian parents and greatly influenced by a grandfather and father who were both Anglican clergyman. Their example guided him into a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
Upon graduation from Trinity College (Cambridge) he began his public ministry in London as Theologian, Poet, and Musician. The statement of faith written in his Bible when he was a young man of sixteen was joyfully fulfilled during his life of service.
Dr. Alford was eventually appointed Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, known as the “mother-church” of England. That prestigious position gave him a place where he could resist the high church movement of the Anglican Church.
His death in 1871 (at the age of sixty-one) left a void in the hearts of many people whom GOD had touched through his ministry – but the world was also left with one of its most memorable hymns of thanksgiving in beautiful words that he composed: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come!, written to celebrate the beautiful days of Harvest Festival in the pastoral English countryside.
Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of Harvest home;
all is safely gathered in, `ere the Winter storms begin.
GOD our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
come to GOD`s own temple, come, raise the song of Harvest home.
All the world is GOD`s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
LORD of Harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the LORD our GOD shall come and shall take His Harvest home;
from His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.
Even so, LORD, quickly come bring Thy final Harvest home;
gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious Harvest home!
Alford utilizes the idioms of an Autumnal Harvest (echoing that of Scripture) to reflect the relationship between GOD and His people – from the protection against the coming “Winter storm” to His utter sovereignty in “all the world” being His field.
The Harvest has historically been a time for reflection over the progress of one`s work – it is easiest to see how well one labored during the abundant days of Spring as the fruit of those labors are manifest. A thankful heart is pleasing to GOD (Hebrews 13:15-16) and this hymn elegantly captures the upswelling joy of a thankful people before a gracious LORD.