Angels, from the realms of Glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye, who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.
Shepherds in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing;
Yonder shines the Infant Light.
Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Sinners moved by true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you, break your chains.
James Montgomery was a gifted individual, recognised as a British poet, journalist and the author of twenty-two books. He is known for setting many Psalms into verse form. His talent developed in spite of, or perhaps because of , a difficult childhood. James was born in Irvine, Scotland, in 1771. His parents were Moravian missionaries who died of yellow fever on the mission field while James attended boarding school, and this caused him to grow up feeling lonely and neglected. However, besides working to become a successful journalist and editor, he was an advocate for underprivileged people.
James was a strong-willed, outspoken man who challenged authorities on controversial issues of the day, such as the abolition of slavery and the rights of the poor. As a journalist and editor of the Sheffield Register , he was able to spread his views widely across England, and he was jailed twice for sedition. Later, he fought for freedom of the press and also supported the Bible Society and foreign missions, gaining for himself a comfortable pension from the British government.
The carol above first appeared as a poem in Montgomery’s newspaper, which he had renamed the Sheffield Iris . The tune to which we usually sing it is called Regent Square . It was written by Henry Smart, one of England’s finest organists and composers. Smart was blind from the age of 51 until his death in 1879 at 66. Some people think his best music was composed during those final years. The stirring tune was written for London’s Regent Square Presbyterian Church.