Here’s one of Charles Wesley’s amazing theological poems to get you started today. I’ve included all ten verses from the original 1780 hymn book. If you can, read it slowly and savour the beauty of what Jesus has done for us. There’s a short reflection below.
O FOR a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honours of thy name.
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.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
Look unto him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.
See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.
Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the Ethiop white.
With me, your chief, ye then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.
In its long form this hymn combines two of the best elements of Wesley’s poetry: his exuberant, God-glorifying, praise for the wonders of individual salvation (verses 1-5) and his passion for teaching about how we are saved and spurring us on to an ever greater experience of God (verses 6-10).
Verses 1-5 are a passionate praise for the cosmic glory of Christ – Jesus should be praised and glorified throughout the world for what he has done for sinners. There is a real joy and commitment to the crucified, risen and glorified Son of God. Yet at the same time Wesley connects the cosmic victory of Christ and our experience of him now with Jesus’ life on earth and work throughout the gospels – verses 4 and 5 are drawn from Jesus’ statement about himself in Luke 4 while the pictures of the deaf hearing, blind seeing, and dumb speaking explicitly connect us to Christ’s earthly miracles. We worship today the same God-man who walked through Israel, healed, preached, died, rose and sent his Spirit into the world and our experience of him is just as real as those who saw him face to face.
Less familiar, perhaps, are verses 6-10. Here Wesley teaches how we are saved and all the glories that await us if we pursue Christ throughout our lives. It is an enormous shame that these verses are no longer sung in churches as they are a wonderful summary of the gospel. First, all need saving (‘Look unto him, ye nations’) yet through faith all can be saved because of the grace of God. Second, we see how salvation was brought (‘see all your sins on Jesus laid’). Third, we we are called to respond to that offering by faith and assured that if we do then God will receive us and forgive us completely (‘Awake from guilty’s sleep…Cast all your sins into the deep’). Finally, we are promised that our experience of God’s forgiveness is the first word and not the last in our salvation – we too can know that deliverance from the power of sin which comes from being renewed in the love of God (‘Anticipate your heaven below’).
If that doesn’t get you going on a Monday morning, nothing will!