Saturday, 28 March 2015

"O for a thousand tongues to sing" Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

CHARLES WESLEY, the greatest hymn-writer in Methodist history, wrote over six thousand hymns, some of which have attained the first rank in English hymnody. He and his brother, John Wesley, admitted that they made more converts through their hymns than through their preaching. 

Charles Wesley usually celebrated each anniversary of his birthday by writing a hymn of praise to God. Little wonder, therefore, that the first anniversary of his conversion, his spiritual birthday, should be celebrated by one of the most helpful hymns in use among Methodists. The opening line of the hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing," is reminiscent of a remark of praise to God, once uttered to Wesley by Peter Border : "Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with them all." 

When Charles Wesley was converted he had been ill in bed for some time, and the fear of death had often come into his mind. On Sunday, May 21, 1738, his brother and some friends came in and sang a hymn. After they went out he prayed alone for some time. In his journal we read: "I was composing myself to sleep in quietness and peace when I heard one come in and say, In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thine infirmities. The words struck me to the heart. I lay musing and trembling. With a strange palpitation of heart, I said, yet feared to say, I believe, I believe ! " These memories he has woven into that wonderful third verse of the hymn: 

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.  

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