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May 21, 1738. Charles Wesley, the man the world would eventually come to know as the great hymn writer/revivalist who composed over 6,500 hymns during his lifetime, lay desperately ill in an upstairs bedroom in London. One biographer defined this 31-year old man as a “self-distrustful and over-anxious clergyman with uncertain aim.” Sick in body and weary in his soul, Charles Wesley was close to death on May 21, 1738. But suddenly, Wesley had a holy vision from God.
In that vision, a Moravian friend of Wesley’s, Mrs. Musgrove, stepped into his room and said, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thy infirmities.” As the vision faded, Wesley called out for her, only to have his other Moravian friends, who were caring for him during his illness, tell him that Mrs. Musgrove was not present in the home at the time.
Wesley’s own journal tells us the rest of the story…
I arose and looked into the Scripture. The words that first presented were, “And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly, my hope is even in Thee.” Afterwards I opened upon Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned”…I now found myself at peace with God. At midnight I gave myself up to Christ: assured I was safe, sleeping or waking. Had continued experience of His power to overrule all temptations; and confessed, with joy and surprise, that He was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me, above what I can ask or think.
Charles’ own brother, John Wesley, later testified that indeed, “(Charles’) bodily strength returned also from that hour.” Church history tells us that from that moment on, Charles Wesley was one changed man. On May 24, 1738, only three days later, John Wesley had his own powerful encounter with God. In Wesley’s journals, he speaks of his heart “being strangely warmed” as he read from God’s Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to flood his life in ways he’d never before experienced.
Both of these worn-out clergymen went on to become renowned evangelists in the years ahead. Once broken men who had done their very best to serve God out of their own strength, now in May, 1738, both are indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to go on and lead what historians now call the Wesleyan revival.
One year later, on May 21, 1739, the first anniversary of what Charles Wesley called his “conversion experience,” this revived man sat down and wrote an eighteen-stanza poem he entitled, For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion. Published in its entirety as a poem in the Wesley 1740 publication Hymns and Sacred Poems, Charles later decided to edit out the first six and the last six verses of his poem, leaving us with a six-stanza hymn that reflected a phrase often used by one of the Wesley’s dearest Moravian friends, Peter Bohler…
“Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all.”
I’ve decided, in honor of all the Wesley brothers contributed to the life of the Church universal, to give you the full eighteen verses of Charles’ original anniversary poem. You’ll recognize the text of today’s famous hymn when you get to verse seven!
Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.
On this glad day the glorious Sun,
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul He shone,
And filled it with repose.
Sudden expired the legal strife,
’Twas then I ceased to grieve;
My second, real, living life,
I then began to live.
Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine,
Power with the Holy Ghost received,
To call the Savior mine.
I felt my Lord’s atoning blood,
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!
I found and owned His promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I knew,
When written on my heart.
O, for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of Thy name.
Jesus! The name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.
See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made,
For every soul of man.
Harlots and publicans and thieves,
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes,
From crimes as great as mine.
Murderers and all ye hellish crew,
Ye sons of lust and pride,
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Savior died.
Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the dark soul white.
With me, your Chief, ye then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.
My prayer: Father God, I stand amazed at the powerful stories of revival and renewal that occurred in the lives of Charles and John Wesley. May I, like them, always be seeking for more and more of Your powerful in-breaking Spirit working in and through me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: It might be very good for me to celebrate in special ways, like Charles Wesley did, the anniversary of those unique times when God stepped in and changed my life for the good. What special events in my life do I need to recall today and in what ways can I remember and commemorate those events for the glory of God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?
Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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