The song that sheds light on the mysteries of Christ’s sacrifice
The Irish William McComb is the author of the hymn “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” (1864). He based it on scripture, Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It’s a bit of an irony, actually, but we can walk into His love and out of sin’s bondage. Sin will be cast away as we live the rest of our lives being found by God’s love, drawing us to heaven which is our home. The work is deeply profound and yet accessible to the believer, this is McComb‘s achievement, showing his mastery of words.
Mc Comb’s hymn verses were penned in English and published in his book of poetry. The hymn has been available in congregations of the English Synod since 1912. The themes of redemption, absolution, and confession are covered by Mc Comb’s verses. And to this day his hymn is included in the Lutheran Service Book. That’s a century of existence for what William McComb created. McComb’s intelligence lies in his occupation as a bookseller in Belfast. He published his body of work in The Poetical Works of William M’Comb (1864).
English composer Richard Redhead composed the tune which accompanies “Chief of Sinners Though I Be”. The tune is published in the 1901 Evangelical Lutheran Evangelical and is named “Redhead No.76” in Redhead’s Influential Church Hymn Tunes, Ancient and Modern (1853), The tune is suitable for singing in parts as well as singing sans accompaniment. Redhead was a member of the Oxford Magdalen College choir. Then at the tender age of 19, he became the organist at Margaret Chapel, London. His influence on the musical tradition of the church was evident in his excellent training of the boys’ choirs.