Posted by: rcottrill | May 29, 2017

Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: St Petersburg, attributed to Dmitri Stepanovich Bortniansky (b. Oct. 28, 1751; d. Oct. 10. 1825)

Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Charles Wesley wrote a number of hymns that related to his conversion experience. And Can It Be? was written shortly after, and O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing to commemorate the first anniversary of his “spiritual birth.”

The present hymn is not in the elevated category of these great hymns, but it is of interest, since it was written immediately after he trusted Christ for salvation. It also addressed sinners with very explicit and direct language. One stanza no longer used says:

CH-5) Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads His arms to embrace you all;
Sinners alone His grace receives;
No need of Him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.

Did you ever buy a new car or truck? Not a used one, the newest and latest, a gleaming wonder right off the showroom floor. One that even smelled new, inside. Top of the line, everything automatic and computer controlled. And what power there was under the hood!

But a new vehicle doesn’t stay new. With use, it soon gets dirty, inside and out, and eventually the body begins to rust. Or perhaps some careless driver crumples a fender for us in a busy parking lot. Then, the engine develops problems and needs expensive repairs. Will it be worth getting them done? Or is it time to think about replacing the old rust bucket with something new?

As many of us have discovered, this works similarly with a computer. The family gathers around as we power up the new machine, just out of the box, and we gasp, as one new feature after another is paraded before us. An information and entertainment highway, right to our door. Help with everything from recipes to school homework, to where to go on vacation–and shopping galore, at our fingertips.

But not many days after, some nasty virus infects the beast, and it requires servicing. Then, we find that those “secure” credit card records have been hacked, and some unknown rascal in Montreal has bought himself a new microwave oven at our expense. Not only that, but a flood of commercials inform us that we no longer have the most up-to-date version. There’s an even newer one that will do twice as much, twice as fast.

No wonder we grow cynical about the advertising hype, because it’s an old and too familiar story: when it’s new, it’s amazing, but will it last? Most things in this world won’t. In truth, many are actually designed to wear out or be outmoded as quickly as possible, to send us looking for a replacement and keep companies collecting the profits.

But there is one thing guaranteed to last forever. The Bible talks about it many times. It’s the eternal salvation offered through faith in Christ (Jn. 3:16). Theologians have added up all the wonderful blessings that are ours, from the moment we trust in the Saviour. Depending on how they are divided up and categorized, there are three or four dozen of them. Far too many to enumerate here. But we will go on enjoying them in the heavenly kingdom, for all eternity.

“In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace….that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:7; 2:7). “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). “He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).

The overwhelming nature of his salvation is something that stirred the heart of the great hymn writer Charles Wesley. He came to faith in Christ through the counsel of a Mr. Bray, whom Wesley describes for us as, “A poor ignorant mechanic, who knows nothing but Christ but, by knowing Him, knows and discerns all things.” Days later, he writes in his journal, “I waked under the protection of Christ, and gave myself up, soul and body, to Him.”

It was at that time he wrote the following hymn. (Note: an “antepast” is a foretaste or appetizer.)

CH-1) Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer’s praise?

CH-2) O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which Thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God,
Should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
Blessed with this antepast of heaven!

On the following day, Charles’s brother John had a genuine conversion experience. Charles Wesley reported in his journal:

“Towards ten, my brother was brought in triumph by a troop of our friends, and declared, ‘I believe.’ We sang the hymn [discussed here] with great joy, and parted with prayer.”

1) Can you recall the day when you put your faith in Christ as Saviour? (If you haven’t done so, would you consider doing so now? The article God’s Plan of Salvation may be of help.)

2) How did you first make known to others that you had been saved?

Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal


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