Text: Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)
Music: Edward Miller (1731-1807)
Tune name: ROCKINGHAM
A prominent nonconformist educator and minister in the 18th century, Philip Doddridge’s writing had an influence in the lives of William Wilberforce, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, and many others. He wrote more than 400 hymns, many of which were summarized his sermons, and none of which published in his lifetime, although many were printed as “handouts” for temporary congregational use.
This hymn was first published in 1755, with the caption: “God’s Name profaned, when his Table is treated with contempt. Malachi 1:12. Applied to the Lord’s Supper.” The text in our Hymnal is significantly altered from Doddridge’s original. One stanza not represented in our Hymnal reads:
Hail! sacred feast, which Jesus makes!
Rich banquet of his Flesh and Blood!
Thrice happy he who here partakes
that sacred Stream, that heavenly Food.
Doddridge’s other hymns in our Hymnal include “Hark! the glad sound” (#7, which we frequently sing during Advent, and “Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve” (#577).
1. My God, thy table now is spread,
thy cup with love doth overflow?
Be all thy children thither led,
and let them thy sweet mercies know.
2. O let thy table honored be,
and furnished well with joyful guests:
and may each soul salvation see,
that here its sacred pledges tastes.
3. Drawn by thy quick’ning grace, O Lord,
in countless numbers let them come;
and gather from their Father’s board
the Bread that lives beyond the tomb.
4. Nor let thy spreading Gospel rest,
till through the world thy truth has run;
till with this Bread all men be blest,
who see the light or feel the sun.
ROCKINGHAM (which is best known in Great Britain as the tune for “When I survey the wondrous cross”) was adapted from an earlier psalm-tune by Edward Miller (1735-1807), and published in his very popular volume, Psalms of David (1709). King George III rewarded Miller with a handsome £35 for his own copy of the book.
Miller was an organist and historian who ran away from home to study music. After studying with the celebrated composer and musicologist Charles Burney, he briefly played the German flute in George Frideric Handel’s orchestra. Miller later settled in as organist in the church in Doncaster and published many articles and collections in an effort to improve the standards of church music.
There are two different harmonizations of this tune in our Hymnal (the other, simpler version is with “When I survey” (#337). The harmonization with the present hymn rewards those who have learned to sing in harmony; “thrice happy he who here partakes.”
Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.