When Thou my righteous Judge shalt come

Representative Text

When Thou, my righteous Judge, shalt come
To fetch Thy ransomed people home,
Shall I among them stand?
Shall such a worthless worm as I,
Who sometimes am afraid to die,
Be found at Thy right hand?

I love to meet among them now,
Before Thy gracious feet to bow,
Though vilest of them all;
But can I bear the piercing thought:
What if my name should be left out,
When Thou for them shalt call?

Prevent, prevent it by Thy grace;
Be Thou, dear Lord, my hiding-place,
In this the accepted day:
Thy pardoning voice, O let me hear,
To still my unbelieving fear,
nor let me fall, I pray.

Let me among Thy saints be found,
Whene'er the archangel's trump shall sound
To see Thy smiling face;
Then loudest of the crowd I'll sing,
While heaven's resounding mansions ring
With shouts of sovereign grace.

Author: Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon

Born: August 24, 1707, Astwell House, Nottinghamshire, England. Died: June 17, 1791, London, England. Buried: St. Helen’s Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicester, England. Selena Huntingdon, née Shirley, Countess of, daughter of Washington, Earl Ferrers, was born Aug. 24, 1707; married to Theophilus Hastings, 9th Earl of Huntindon, June, 1728; and d. in London, June 17, 1701. At an early age she received serious religious impressions, which continued with her, and ruled her conduct through life. She was a member of the first Methodist Society, in Fetter Lane, London, and the first Methodist Conference was held at her house in June, 1744. Her sympathies, however, were with the Calvinism of G. Whitefield, and when the breach took plac… Go to person page >


O when my righteous Judge shall come. [The Judgment Day.] Miller's account of this hymn in his Singers and Songs, &c, 1869, p. 182, is:—

"It was in this fourth edition [of the Lady Huntingdon Hymn Book] that there appeared for the first time the striking and well-known hymn by the Countess ‘Oh! when my righteous Judge shall come.' . . . It is the second part of a piece on the Judgment Day which has a first part of five verses, beginning ‘We soon shall hear the midnight cry.'"

This statement by Miller is based upon information which he received from Daniel Sedgwick. On turning to D. Sedgwick's own copy of the edition of the Lady Huntingdon Hymn Book referred to by Miller, we find, first, two separate and distinct hymns numbered 146 and 147, and beginning respectively, "We soon shall hear the midnight cry” and "O when my righteous Judge shall come;" and, secondly, a note in pencil in Sedgwick's handwriting which reads, "Hymn 146 and 147 seem to be both by the same Author-—perhaps the Countess's." On turning to Sedgwick's copy of Miller's Singers and Songs, we find, written by Sedgwick opposite the words quoted by Miller as above, the following:—

" Upon the testimony of the Rev. Thomas Young of Canterbury this hymn was composed by Charles Wesley. None doubt it was wrote at the suggestion of the Countess by C. Wesley."

It is clear that these guesses of Sedgwick are worthless. The history of the hymn, so far as we have been able to trace it, is as follows:—
(1) In an enlarged edition of the Lady Huntingdon Collection, circa 1774, it was given, together with "We soon shall hear the midnight cry" (as Nos. 145 and 147), in 4 stanzas of 6 lines, and in common with all the rest of the hymns in the collection without signature. Both hymns were subsequently omitted from all official editions of the hymn-book, a fact which tells greatly against the guess that they were written by the Countess.
(2) We next find both hymns in the 1775 Appendix by L. Coughlan to J. Bazlee's Select Collection of Psalms & Hymns . . . for the Use of the Congregation of Cumberland Street ,[London] Chapel. [Lady Huntingdon.] They are numbered 295, 296.
(3) "We soon shall hear the midnight cry," is seldom found after this date; but its companion hymn, "0 when my righteous Judge shall come," appears in Rippon's Baptist Selection, 1787, No. 579, as "When Thou, my righteous Judge, shalt come." This was repeated in numerous hymn-books in Great Britain and America, and is the popular form of the hymn.
The most, therefore, that can be said with regard to its authorship is that it is "Anon. Lady Huntingdon’s Hymn Book, circa 1774: Rippon’s Baptist Selection 1787."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



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