Saturday, 28 March 2015

History Behind Classic Chrismas Carol "Hark! the herald angels sing" Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

THE only hymn of Charles Wesley that has been admitted to the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England is this Christmas hymn. This is true in spite of the fact that, as an ordained clergyman of that denomination, he was the greatest hymn-writer ever produced by the Church of England. But, of course, Charles Wesley and his brother, John Wesley, belong to Methodism as well. Until death came to them they remained clergymen of the Established Church. The great religious movement founded by John Wesley, and inspired by the hymns of Charles Wesley, and known therefore as the Wesleyan Revival, was intended to quicken the spiritual work of their church. But, besides doing this, it developed into organized Methodism as a separate church, and as such has proved to be a tremendous religious force in the world.

This Christmas hymn was first written in 1739 and first published the same year in Hymns and Sacred Poems by John and Charles Wesley, their first joint hymnal; and it began with the lines:

Hark ! how all the welkin rings,
Glory to the King of kings.

Many revisions have been made in the original hymn, some of which are contained in our Sunday School Hymnal. This hymn has been more widely published in hymn books than any other by Charles Wesley, and is one of the most beloved hymns in the English language. It gives such clear utterance in poetic form to the doctrines of the incarnation that the full meaning of the birth of Christ fairly sings its way into the hearts and memories of those who worship.


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