Posted by: rcottrill | December 18, 2010

Today in 1707 – Charles Wesley Born

English hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. While most have been forgotten, there are many that are still printed in our hymn books three centuries after his birth. Some of them rank among the best in the English language. Here are a few that are commonly used today:

A Charge to Keep I Have
And Can It Be?
Arise, My Soul, Arise
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Forth in Thy Name, O Lord
Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
O for a Heart to Praise My God
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Rejoice, the Lord Is King
Soldiers of Christ, Arise
Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim

It is simply impossible in the blog to do justice to the wonderful output of this man. But allow me a brief comment on several of the songs listed.

In his brother John’s Character of a Methodist, published around 1741, is found the words of Soldiers of Christ, Arise. It is based on the following passage of Scripture that deals with spiritual warfare, and the armour God provides for our defense (Eph. 6:10-17). (Note: The word “panoply” in Wesley’s hymn refers to a full suit of armour, a complete set of equipment.)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (vs. 10-13).

Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armour on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.

The original of the above hymn had sixteen stanzas (which the Cyber Hymnal gives us), but I believe editors have chosen the best for our use today. From his Hymns and Sacred Poems, published in 1742 we have another hymn:

O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that always feels Thy blood
So freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
My great Redeemer’s throne,
Where only Christ is heard to speak,
Where Jesus reigns alone.

The Methodists faced a great deal of persecution in those days. To encourage them, Charles Wesley published Hymns in Times of Trouble and Persecution, in 1744. From this collection, here are a couple of stanzas of Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim–stanzas not usually included in our hymnals. They particularly suggest the dangers and difficulties these Christians faced.

The waves of the sea have lift up their voice,
Sore troubled that we in Jesus rejoice;
The floods they are roaring, but Jesus is here;
While we are adoring, He always is near.

When devils engage, the billows arise,
And horribly rage, and threaten the skies:
Their fury shall never our steadfastness shock,
The weakest believer is built on a rock.

In Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord, in 1745, Wesley included:

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.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us 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.

(2) Today in 1903 – Dion de Marbelle Died
DGraphic Buffalo Bill Codyaniel (or Dion) De Marbelle had a fascinating history. He sailed with a whaling crew in his youth, and served in the American navy during the Mexican War (1847), and as a drum major in the American Civil War. He toured America as a musician and an actor with an opera company, later organizing his own theatrical troupe.

When James A. Bailey (the future partner of P. T. Barnum) organized a circus, De Marbelle was hired as his first clown. He later headed up his own circus, but lost everything when a fire destroyed his tents during a tour of Canada. Then he helped Buffalo Bill Cody organize his popular Wild West show. This is the man who wrote When They Ring the Golden Bells:

There’s a land beyond the river,
That we call the sweet forever,
And we only reach that shore by faith’s decree;
One by one we’ll gain the portals,
There to dwell with the immortals,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

Don’t you hear the bells now ringing?
Don’t you hear the angels singing?
’Tis the glory hallelujah Jubilee.
In that far off sweet forever,
Just beyond the shining river,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

We shall know no sin or sorrow,
In that haven of tomorrow,
When our barque shall sail beyond the silver sea;
We shall only know the blessing
Of our Father’s sweet caressing,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

De Marbelle faced severe financial troubles in his latter years. His old friend Bill Cody visited and gave him money at one point. And neighbours helped too. The man accepted his trials with grace, saying, “For years I was so busy I didn’t have time for God, and so rich I didn’t need Him. God had to slow me down and take my success away, so that He could talk to me about the home beyond the river.”


  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] (2) Today in 1738 – Charles Wesley Converted British hymn writer Charles Wesley produced around 6,500 hymns. He has been called the poet laureate of Methodism. Five years younger than his famous brother John, he accompanied the latter in his evangelistic work. But after 1756 he did little traveling, preferring a more localized ministry that permitted him to care for his wife and family. (For more about Charles Wesley, see Today in 1707.) […]

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