Edward Perronet

Edward Perronet (1726-1792) penned what is today called the National Anthem of the Church: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”

Edward and Charles Perronet, sons of Vincent Perronet, an Episcopal clergyman, who preached fifty years at Shoreham, England, joined forces with the Wesleys in 1846. Charles Wesley refers to him as a companion and co-laborer. His older brother Charles (1720-1776) also entered the ministry to labor with Wesley.

On Sunday, August 10, Charles Wesley wrote: “At Gwennap, nine or ten thousand, by computation, listened with all eagerness, while I commended them to God, and to the word of His grace. For near two hours I was enabled to preach repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ. I broke out again and again into prayer and exhortation. I believed not one word would return empty. Seventy years’ suffering were overpaid by one such opportunity.”

That September he became acquainted with Edward Perronet, “a sensible, pious, and amiable young man.” From there Edward took Charles to meet his father, the vicar of Shoreham, in Kent. Wesley described him as a man with an “artless, childlike spirit, and zealous for the doctrines of the gospel. But his preaching and godly conversation, had, as yet, but little influence on the minds of the people, who, through ignorance, opposed the truth with great violence.”

In time Vincent would become to John and Charles Wesley a kind of father figure. Charles called him the “Archbishop of Methodism.” Wesley preached there in Shoreham and “as soon as I began preaching, the wild beasts began roaring, stamping, blaspheming, ringing the bells, and turning the church into a bear-garden [sp?]. I spoke on for half an hour, though only the nearest could hear. The rioters followed us to Mr. Perronet’s house, raging, threatening, and throwing stones. Charles Perronet hung over me, to intercept the blows. They continued their uproar after we got into the house.”

In 1746, Edward traveled as far as Newcastle, England with Charles Wesley. The attack against the Methodists was in full swing. Methodist historian Abel Stevens says, “Perronet showed good courage, and sometimes intercepted blows and missiles aimed at Wesley by receiving them himself.” At Bolton he was overcome by a mob and was rolled in mud.

Charles’ journal for Oct. 15, 1746, reads: “I preached at Tipton-green the necessity of taking Christ’s yoke upon us. The few remaining Antinomians were present; but they only mocked at God’s Word and messenger.

“We were hardly set down when the sons of Belial beset the house, and beat at the door. I ordered it to be set open, and immediately they filled the house. I sat still in the midst of them for half an hour. Edward Perronet I was a little concerned for, lest such rough treatment at his first setting out should daunt him; but he abounded in valour, and was for reasoning with the wild beasts, before they had spent any of their violence. He got a deal of abuse thereby, and not a little dirt, both which he took very patiently.”

Charles Perronet had attended school at Oxford, intending to become an Anglican priest. Once initiated as a preacher under John and Charles Wesley, he co-labored with Charles Wesley in 1747 in Dublin, and for half a year went preaching across Ireland.

Edward appears in Charles’ journal as “Ned.” He possessed “a large fund of wit” and would in time become part of a poetic trio with John and Charles Wesley. John Wesley had heard about the gifted young Perronet and was eager to hear him. Edward came to London to hear Wesley. When Wesley saw him in the audience, he announced that Edward Perronet (without asking him) would preach at the next early morning session, beginning at 5:00 am. Perronet felt unqualified to speak with a man like Wesley in the audience but revered Wesley too much to deny him. The next morning he stepped into the pulpit, frankly told the congregation that he was not there by his free choice, that he had been compelled by Wesley, and that he felt inadequate for the job before him. All that said, he then pledged that he would furnish them all with the best sermon ever delivered. Opening his Bible, he turned to Matthew 5 and read the entire Sermon on the Mount, without comment, and closed with a hymn and prayer.

Perronet was a Christian who placed the truths of God’s Word above any allegiance to great leaders. John and Charles Wesley were his superiors in giftedness and in labors, but Perronet was able to graciously differ from the great Wesley brothers. For instance, the Wesleys, all through their careers, maintained their status as clergymen in the Anglican church. They also felt that it was wrong for an unordained Methodist itinerant preacher to “administer communion.” This issue came before the Methodist conference in 1755 and the Wesley brothers stood firm for honoring the Anglican system.

Perronet disagreed. He was convinced that the Church and State were separate institutions, and that believers had no right participating in a state church. This sort of courage springs from the conviction that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to answer for the way we treated the authoritative sayings of God.

In 1756, he even wrote a poem titled “The Mitre, a Satyricall Poem” which ridiculed the state church clergymen. Charles Wesley was not amused. John Wesley suppressed the publication of the poem, but later confessed, “For forty years I have been in doubts concerning that question, ‘What obedience is due to heathenish priests and wicked infidels?'”

Health concerns were another reason for pulling back from his efforts with Methodism. Once distanced from the Wesleys, Selina, the Countess of Huntington (1707-1791) took an interest in his work. She gave large sums of money to support traveling evangelists, and eventually built 70 buildings devoted to gospel preaching. She had been raised an Anglican, but her evangelical fervor made her an oddity in the established church. The network of preaching points she built became known as the Countess of Huntington’s Connexion. She was the patroness of great preachers like George Whitefield, Howell Harris, and Rowland Hill. She can also be credited with promoting and preserving many of our best hymns. She helped Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, John Cennick, William Williams, Charles Wesley, Thomas Olivers, Augustus Toplady, and Edward Perronet.

Edward’s brother Charles, despite a weak physical constitution, carried on for twenty years as a part-time itinerant. Unlike the younger Edward, he was an unquestioning Methodist who gave himself to travel under Wesley’s direction. The Arminian Magazine praised him as “a living and a dying witness of the blessed doctrine he always defended–entire sanctification. Shortly before dying, he said, “God has purged me from all my dross; all is done away. I am all love.”

About the year 1779, his regal hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” was penned. It first appeared in 1780 in The Gospel Magazine. This hymn originally had eight verses, and was entitled, “On the Resurrection.” Shrubsole, an organist at Spafield’s Chapel, London, composed a tune called “Miles Lane.” It was generally sung to this, until it became wedded to the American tune “Coronation,” written by Oliver Holden, a Massachusetts carpenter. Later still the hymn was sung to “Diadem” written by James Ellor, a hatmaker. The hymn became the English Te Deum, and receives the spontaneous approval of all Christian hearts.

In 1785, his poems and hymns were collected in a volume, Occasional Verses, Moral and Sacred, “published for the Instruction and Amusement of the Serious and Religious.”

In his last years he worked with a group of dissenters at Canterbury. John Wesley and his itinerants were shown hospitality there and he opened the pulpit to their exhortations. Though compelled to differ with these choice saints, he maintained a large heart toward them to the end. He died at Canterbury in January, 1792. His last recorded words were: “Glory to God in the height of His divinity; glory to God in the depth of His humanity; glory to God in His all-sufficiency, and into His hands I commend my spirit.” To his dying breath he wanted to “crown Him Lord of all.”

Materials for this article taken from:

Edwin M. Long, Illustrated History of Hymns & Their Authors
Abel Stevens, History of Methodism, in 3 vols.
Journal of Charles Wesley, in 2 vol.