The best, most enduring hymns combine lots of good-news bible truth with beautiful lyrics and a compelling, singable melody. This song, lyrics written by one of the best known, most productive and influential hymn writers of English Christendom, displays those qualities. Please give it a sing-along listen, then we’ll look at highlights of the song writer’s life which offer ideas on how he was able to produce so many wonderful hymns.
Church historian James Townsend wrote, “Charles Wesley wrote 8,989 hymns (at least three times the output of poet William Wordsworth). Dr. Frank Baker calculated that Charles Wesley wrote an average of 10 lines of verse every day for 50 years! He completed an extant poem every other day.”
[From “The Golden Age of Hymns: Did You Know?” an article found on www.Christianitytoday.com .]
Charles Wesley’s biography is impressive, even without the hymns. He was born in England in 1707, and lived 80 years. He was the son of an Anglican cleric, and was educated at Oxford University, studying along with his brother John Wesley (both men of Methodist fame) and their friend, George Whitefield. (Whitefield was to become a well-known, widely popular, hugely influential and much listened to evangelist in America for many years leading up to the American Revolution.)
At Oxford they focused on studying the Bible and living a holy life. Other students mocked them, saying they were the “Holy Club” and “the Methodists”. That second name popped up because they were very detailed and methodical in their Bible study, the interpretations they drew from their Bible study and their deliberate Christian lifestyle.
Sermons and songs
Wesley was a serious student of scripture, a clergyman, and an evangelist who, like his brother John and friend George Whitefield, “went beyond” studies alone and in 1738 had personal conversion experiences which made the spirit of God and of Christ living and real for them. This energized them to take the gospel out beyond church doors and “to the streets” — to ordinary people. It was around that time that Charles began to write the teaching, poetic hymns he is best known for. They used hymns to help teach the gospel of Christ they preached. (It is not hard to find Bible verses that support his lyrics.) For eighteen years starting in 1738 the Wesley brothers traveled through Britain doing revivals, converting workers through preaching and hymn-singing. Defying tradition — or church politics — they sent laymen to preach in churches without asking for permission from the church’s clergy, much to the clergy’s displeasure. (It seems their kind of evangelism upset some religious leaders of the day.)
Charles Wesley lived, believed, preached and taught about a personal, ever-present Lord, to Whom every person will answer, and Who is good and worthy to be praised. He taught about the indwelling of holy spirit, man’s need to be saved, and man’s personal accountability. He wrote:
“The Holy Ghost in part we know,
For with us He resides,
Our whole of good to Him we owe,
Whom by His grace he guides,
He doth our virtuous thoughts inspire,
The evil he averts,
And every seed of good desire,
He planted in our hearts.”
We share a great big wonderful God
Given Charles Wesley’s godly family upbringing, his pursuit of biblical understanding, his life-style of applying what he learned, his personal encounter and fellowship with the Lord, his work ethic, his many years preaching, teaching and evangelizing and his habits of diligence, it is not surprising that hymns he wrote were made of good enough stuff to lift and nourish seeker’s minds and hearts for over two hundred years. Though he was brilliant, educated and productive beyond what we ourselves might become, his example is inspiring. We can rejoice that it is the same great big wonderful God that works in you and me to will and do of His good pleasure. May we, too, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. May we continually forbear one another in love, endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — and live lives with hearts always welcoming the long expected Jesus.
God bless you lots!
LYRICS – Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Text: Charles Wesley (1744)
Tune: Rowland H. Prichard (1830)
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born that we can live forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.
Let’s stay in touch
Each time I post a new song and lesson here I send a brief, cheerful note to friends of this song site. The note gives a quick description of the song and lesson along with a link to the new song’s page. It is super-easy for you to get a note from me, too. Just click the green “Song of the Week” button below and you are almost there.
To sweeten the deal, you will also get instant access to the “Music Box” where I put all the free resources and downloads that go along with these song pages. Check it out now! Good stuff. (Side note — I still post announcements on social media, too, even though I have learned it is terribly unreliable at getting the message out and keeping us connected. Email gets that job done where social media fails. We do well to connect this way, and avoid getting throttled by social media.)
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