Thursday, March 19, 2009

Charles Wesley on the Free Grace of God for All

I just finished reading the first two essays in a little book I picked up during the meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society titled "Prints" and Practices of Love Divine, edited by Maxine E. Walker, Point Loma Press, 2007. The first essay, which I mentioned on Facebook, is called Wesleyan Hymns as Icons of the Wesleyan Tradition. It was written by S. T. Kimbrough, Jr, and was, as I said on FB, wonderful and fascinating! I highly recommend it, and it is worthy of much comment here, on my blog.

However, in light of this Sunday's Gospel Lesson (viz., John 3:16), I thought I would, at this time, make mention of the second essay and post one of Charles Wesley's hymns quoted therein. The essay is titled Father of Everlasting Love" and the Struggle Against Calvinism (my Reformed friends are going to love this!), and it was written by the Rev'd. Dr. Leslie Griffiths (Lord Griffiths of Burry Port). Dr. Griffiths is the Superintendent Minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London England.

(As an aside; I had the opportunity to visit Wesley's Chapel in 2001. I also had the opportunity to hear Dr. Griffiths preach on the Sunday of the World Methodist Conference in Brighton, England that year. - Anyway . . .)

Dr. Griffith points out that the hymn is a fiery and unrelenting attack on the Calvinist understanding of Predestination. However, he also notes that, while the hymn was published with a small collection of other hymns, it was not included in the great 1780 hymnbook.

Although the hymn is a polemic against Calvinism, as a Wesleyan-Arminian Christian, I view it as simply expressing the amazing and abundant love and grace of our God poured out to all through Christ Jesus. It is in that same spirit that I post it, here.

Father, whose everlasting love
Thy only Son for sinners gave,
Whose grace to all did freely move,
And sent him down the world to save:

Help us thy mercy to extol,
Immense, unfathomed, unconfined;
To praise the Lamb who died for all,
The general Saviour of mankind.

Thy undistinguishing regard
Was cast on Adam's fallen race;
For all thou hast in Christ prepared
Sufficient, sovereign, saving grace.

The world he suffered to redeem;
For all he has the atonement made;
For those that will not come to him
The ransom of his live was paid.

Arise, O God, maintain thy cause!
The fullness of the nations call;
Lift up the standard of thy cross,
And all shall own thou diedst for all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick

March 17 is the Feast of St. Patrick. Most people know it as a day when we celebrate all things Irish and when everyone gets to wear green, my favorite color. (In fact, I would join the petition to make green an alternate liturgical color, instead of Lent's purple, just for St. Patrick's Day!) - Yet there is much more significance to the day.

The real reason we celebrate is because of the amazing missionary work of Patrick during the 5th century. - As a boy, Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland. After his escape several years later, he entered Holy Orders in Britain. He was ordained a Presbyter (i.e., Elder or Priest) and consecrated a Bishop. God called Patrick back to Ireland, where, by the grace of God, Patrick brought about, in large part, the conversion of Ireland. In the process, he Christianized Pagan sacred places and objects (a good lesson for current evangelicals).

Additionally, Patrick provided a great means of speaking of the Holy Trinity by use of the three-leafed clover.

One of the most powerful prayers attributed to Patrick is The Lorica, or St. Patrick's Breastplate. While there is some doubt that it was actually written by the good bishop, it certainly expresses his faith.

While an abbreviated form of the Breastplate is found in Sing to the Lord, the Nazarene hymnal, the more complete version, as follows, was found on my friend, James Gibson's blog, Sanctus. - May God make this a reality for us all.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet “Well done” in judgement hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
against the heart’s idolatry,
against the wizard’s evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

3. Lord, I believe They precious blood,
Which, at the mercy seat of God,
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me, for my own soul, was shed.

4. Lord, I believe, were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.

Praise be to God for the mercy poured out to us through the atonement of Christ our Lord!

(Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness. Nicholaus L. Zinzendorf. Translated by John Wesley. Hymn #23 in Wesley Hymns. Compiled by Ken Bible. Lillenas Publishing Co. Kansas City, MO.)