John Cennick, 1718-1755.

Julian's account is as follows:

John Cennick, a prolific and successful hymn-writer, was descended from a family of Quakers, but brought up in the Church of England. He assisted J. Wesley and then G. Whitefield in their labours for a time, and then passed over to, and died as a minister of the Moravian Church. Born at Reading, Dec. 12th. 1718, he was for some time a land surveyor at Reading, but, becoming acquainted with the Wesleys in 1739, he was appointed by J. Wesley as a teacher of a school for colliers' children at Kingswood in the following year. This was followed by his becoming a lay preacher, but in 1740 he parted from the Wesleys on doctrinal grounds. He assisted Whitefield until 1745, when he joined the Moravians, and was ordained deacon in London, in 1749. His duties led him twice to Germany and also to the North of Ireland. He died in London, July 4th. 1755. Cennick wrote a few prose works and some sermons. He also published a few volumes of hymns. Some of the stanzas of his hymns are very fine, but the hymns taken as a whole are most unequal. Some excellent centos might be compiled from his various works. His religious experiences were given as a preface to his Sacred Hymns, 1741.

Cennick's contribution to 'Spiritual Songs' is found in no. 170, verse 2.

Julian has some interesting comments on this hymn. It shows how hymns are altered in the course of time. 170 is a cento, its composition being arrived at by compiling lines from different authors. Here is Julian's account:- "Lo! He comes with clouds descending, Once for favoured sinners slain"(The Second Advent) The hymn in modern collections which opens with these lines is a cento of a somewhat complicated character. The first form of the hymn is by John Cennick. There is evidence to show that it was sung by the congregation of the Moravian Chapel, in Dublin, on April 20th. 1750; but the earliest printed text known appeared in the fifth (1752) ed. of Cennick's Collection of Sacred Hymns, etc., Dublin, Samuel Powell.

It would take up too much space to give the three renderings contained in Julian's account. It will suffice to point out one or two verses.


"Lo! He cometh, countless trumpets
Blow before His bloody sign!
'Midst ten thousand saints and angels,
See the Crucified shine.
Welcome, welcome bleeding Lamb!


Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain!
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God appears on earth to reign!


Lo! He comes with clouds descending
Once for favoured sinners slain!
Thousand, thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train.
Hallelujah! Amen! (Madan's alteration).

Now the verse attributed to Cennick:


Now redemption, long expected,
See! in solemn pomp appear.
All His people, once despised
Now shall meet Him in the air!
Now the promised Kingdom's come.


Now redemption long expected
See! In solemn pomp appear!
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the Air!
See the Son of God appear!

Wigram, 1856.

See the Saviour long expected,
Now in solemn pomp appear!
And His saints, by man rejected
All His heavenly glory share.
See the Son of God appear!

W. Kelly, 1894 has "See the Son of Man appear!"

From what is written here it would be accurate to say that the cento as we have it in 'Spiritual Songs' can be attributed to Cennick, Wesley, Madan and possibly Wigram. It is an excellent example of the changes that can take place in a hymn as it passes through different hands and used in different companies.

The cento is popular with the believers gathered to the Lord's Name and using the Little Flock Hymn Book. It is included in all editions from 1856 to 1978.

Hymns by John Cennick