So much could be said about this man, one of our greatest hymn writers. He wrote more than 6,500 songs, and our hymn books still contain many of them over two centuries later. (For a listing of a few of them, see Today in 1707.) His hymn, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, is considered one of the finest in the English language, yet it is a model of simplicity. The entire song includes only 3 or 4 words of more than two syllables.
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
I’ll take a moment to comment on another song that may have been written by Charles Wesley. Though it was listed as Anonymous in its original publication, many attribute Come, Thou Almighty King to him. About 12 years before, the British national anthem God Save the King came into popular use. It is thought that perhaps the hymn was written to remind Christians that they were accountable to a higher power than the king of England! The hymn originally was sung to the tune used for the national anthem (used by Americans with My Country ‘Tis of Thee). Try it, and see. The British anthem and the hymn certainly contain a number of similar phrases, particularly:
(From God Save the King)
Send him victorious, happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us, God save the King.
(From Come, Thou Almighty King)
Father all glorious, o’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!
After 50 years of active ministry, Charles Wesley was nearing journey’s end. (He died on March 29th–check tomorrow’s blog.) On his deathbed, he quoted one of his greatest hymns, And Can It Be? It seems to have been written shortly after his conversion in 1738, and was originally entitled Free Grace. The rhetorical questions of the first stanza are meant as an expression of sheer wonderment. The second stanza below (actually the third in the hymn) is absolutely stunning. It is virtually unmatched in our hymnody as a poetic expression of the librating power of the gospel.
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?
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening 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.
The video and audio of the following clip are not quite in synch, but don’t give up on it on that account. This is how this great hymn should be sung!
(2) Today in 1919 – Elizabeth Codner Died
Gifted with her pen, Elizabeth Harris Codner had been the editor of a missionary magazine when she was only 17 years old. Later, she and her husband served at a mission in the city of London. In 1860 word reached them of a spiritual revival taking place in Ireland. Mrs. Codner talked with a group of young people who were excited by the stories of what God was doing. She counseled them not to be satisfied with hearing how the Lord was blessing elsewhere. What about themselves? Did they not want to enjoy the refreshing touch of God as well?
The words of Ezekiel 34:26 came to her mind: “I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.” She challenged them, “While the Lord is pouring out such showers of blessing upon others, pray that some drops will fall on you.” It was this encounter that inspired Elizabeth Codner to writer her hymn, Even Me.
The original last line of the first stanza was “Let some droppings fall on me.” Not only do we not usually speak of rain as “droppings,” it seems more like what birds leave behind! Thankfully, the line was later changed to what you see below.
Lord, I hear of showers of blessing,
Thou art scattering full and free;
Showers the thirsty land refreshing;
Let some drops now fall on me;
Even me, even me,
Let some drops now fall on me.
Love of God, so pure and changeless,
Blood of Christ, so rich and free;
Grace of God, so strong and boundless
Magnify them all in me;
Even me, even me,
Magnify them all in me.
Here is an unusual rendering of Mrs. Codner’s hymn. It does not stick strictly to William Bradbury’s tune, nor does it use many of the original words, but I believe it is worth a listen. African American opera singer Leona Mitchell virtually turns the hymn into a traditional Spiritual. Interesting, to say the least.