Saturday, September 3, 2011

Perhaps the Greatest Hymn Ever Penned

It is, at least, one of the greatest hymns ever penned, and it is my absolute favorite.  And, yes, it is a Wesley hymn:

And Can It Be?

And can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me? Who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis myst'ry all: th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore!
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father's throne above
(So free, so infinite his grace!),
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in him, is mine.
Alive in him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
(Charles Wesley, 1738)

Comments listed in The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists, indicate that the hymn was originally entitled "Free Grace."  It is said that this hymn was written immediately following Charles' conversion on May 21, 1738.  They surmise that it is probable that this hymn was sung when John came late in the evening of the 24th to announce his own conversion (322).

Also in the notes, it is mentioned that Dr. Bett was of the opinion that John had authored this hymn, rather than Charles (though, it seems, that the vast majority of people have assumed Charles' authorship).  And, it is stated that the opening question is decisive for the whole of Wesley's theology (323).

What is your favorite hymn?

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