Come Ye Thankful People Come
Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Hymn Stories
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ (Matthew 13:24-30)
Seeing as we are in harvest-time, it seems appropriate to look at a standard hymn of many a harvest festival. Come Ye Thankful People, Come was written by Henry Alford, one time Dean of Canterbury Cathedral and well regarded scholar of Greek.
The Dean was a man of prayer as well as a man of letters. When he got to the end of a day’s work, he would stand up and give thanks for what he had received. A sort of ‘grace’ for study.
Today’s hymn was originally eight verses long - he had a tendency to write over-long hymns - but normally only four are used. In the first Alford introduces the theme of the harvest with which we are all familiar - potato wagons, combines and so on - before turning to what we might call a spiritual harvest. The second and third verses echoes Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (the passage at the top), and speak of the final judgment where God separates the weeds from the wheat. Finally Alford then urges the church to praise God as those who, safely harvested, now live in God’s granary.
Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest-home:
all be 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:
grant, O harvest Lord, 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 purge away
all that doth offend, that day;
give his angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast,
but the fruitful ears to store
in his garner evermore.
Then, thou Church Triumphant, come,
raise the song of harvest-home;
all be safely gathered in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there for ever purified
in God's garner to abide:
come, ten thousand angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest-home!