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Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29m 1788)
Music: Maryton, by Henry Percy Smith (b. Dec. ___, 1825; d. Jan. 28, 1898)
Note: Usually we think of John Wesley as the preacher, and his brother Charles as the hymn writer. That was certainly true in the main, but John occasionally wrote or translated hymns, and Charles also preached.
This hymn originally had a dozen stanzas. It was later edited down to six (stanzas 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12), as found on the Cyber Hymnal page. In several of the phrases you can catch a glimmer of what Wesley felt the day of the accident described below.
There are times when something happens to us that causes us to pause and ponder, to look at the deeper meaning and implications of it to ourselves and our future. Our response may be, “That really makes you think!” Such thoughts can be stirred by a book we read, or a sermon we hear, or by some event.
Or what about the terrorist attacks of 9-11? Many of us watched in shock and wrenching grief as those magnificent towers came down. Thousands of people in the offices they housed died that day. People who headed off to work in the morning, as they’d done perhaps for years. It seemed just like any other day, but it was to be the last day of their lives. It makes you think.
The birth of a child can do that too, especially if it’s the first. It fills us both with wonder, and a sobering sense of responsibility. Going outside on a clear night and gazing up at the stars can have a similar effect, when the sky is a carpet of tiny points of light–lights that are actually suns even bigger than our own. And here we are, on this tiny speck called planet earth. It can be a humbling experience.
Seeing certain motion pictures can bring sudden reflection too. Have you ever watched Judgment at Nuremberg? It presents the true story of the trials of some Nazi leaders after the Second World War. Their excuse often was, “We had to follow orders.” But is that a valid reason for the evil they did? And could something like Nazi tyranny happen again? Happen where we live? It makes you think.
The funerals we attend would have to be high on the list of thought-provoking experiences–especially if a sudden death is involved–perhaps the passing of someone younger than we are. Could that have been me? What about that stab of pain I felt in my chest last week? Am I ready to die? Food for thought.
In taking funeral services, pastors wrestle with striking a balance between two things. They want to bring comfort and encouragement to the sorrowing family and friends. But if they are to fulfil their calling, they’ll also want to seize the teachable moment, reminding listeners that there is an eternity ahead for which they need to prepare. As God says, “Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29).
Something like that came out of a shocking experience of Charles Wesley’s. On March 14th, 1744, he went to the English town of Leeds. There he held a meeting of the Christians in the upper room of an old building. The place was packed with people, and some were even turned away for lack of space. Then, suddenly, the rafters supporting the floor gave way, not able to support the great weight. More than a hundred people plummeted into the room below.
Mercifully, no one was killed, though some, including Wesley, were injured. As he gazed into the gaping hole at the untangling heaps of people below, he cried, “Fear not! The Lord is with us; our lives are all safe.” It was after this sobering experience that he was inspired to write a hymn about the believer’s safety in the coming day of judgment.
CH-1) The great archangel’s trump shall sound,
While twice ten thousand thunders roar
Tear up the graves, and cleave the ground,
And make the greedy sea restore.
CH-3) But we, who now our Lord confess,
And faithful to the end endure,
Shall stand in Jesus’ righteousness,
Stand, as the Rock of ages, sure.
CH-5) The earth, and all the works therein,
Dissolve, by raging flames destroyed,
While we survey the awful scene,
And mount above the fiery void.
CH-6) By faith we now transcend the skies,
And on that ruined world look down;
By love above all height we rise,
And share the everlasting throne.
1) Have you recently had an “It makes you think” moment? What was it, and what thoughts came to mind?
2) Do you know of someone who was led to trust Christ as Saviour through attending a funeral, or having some other sobering experience?