There is another class of hymns, which I plan to feature in more depth later, which is based upon allusions to Scripture passages, usually making a direct application to our own lives, and often incorporating more than one idea or passage into the same hymn.
Some of these are verses from the Old Testament, with a few variations or additions that tie into the New Testament, but others like “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” are comparing a natural phenomenon we see around us with a parable or lesson from the Bible.
In this time of harvest and thanksgiving in Canada, although American Thanksgiving is a little later, it is good to remember the Eternal Harvest which is coming when our Saviour returns. The hymn begins by speaking of the temporal thanksgiving for crops gathered and stored for the winter. “Harvest Home” is an old Scottish harvest celebration, the equivalent of our Thanksgiving (which was not invented until much later and then only in North America).
It then goes on to speak of the world being God’s field, and ties in the parable of the wheat and tares, thence making a slight allusion to the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard seed. The words ” First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;” are taken almost exactly from the King James Version of Jesus’ words at that place. Finally in the last two verses the poet makes mention of the conclusion of the parable of the tares, and looks forward to the final “Harvest Home” when we that believe will be stored “in His garner evermore.”
The metaphor and allusion are so strong that we pay little attention to the actual poetry which is however well written, with the single exception of the unfortunate “come/home” rhyme. It should not be overlooked also that drawing in so many allusions, especially with the actual Scriptural wording is not easy when constrained by rhyme and metre.
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home;
All is 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;
Lord of harvest, grant 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 in that day
All offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In His garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come,
Bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come,
Raise the glorious harvest home.
“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” is an excellent hymn to sing at Thanksgiving, or at any time of the year. The reminder at this time of harvest and storage for the winter of that field which is already “white unto harvest,” helps to keep our focus from the merely temporal and earthly harvest, while the anticipation of that final great harvest day draws our thoughts to the place where they should be at this time of year. Thanksgiving is about rendering praise unto God for His blessings, the greatest of which are not merely the corn and harvest which we reap in this world.
- The Oak Tree by Cecil Frances Alexander
- Wordless Wednesday