O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing was used in a recent worship service I attended. It was one of the more than six thousand hymns written by Charles Wesley and was originally titled “For the Anniversary of One’s Conversion.” Part of any conversion experience is the realization that we are sinners, and we can’t stop sinning. The only remedy is a Savior, and Wesley recognizes and proclaims that truth in this well known hymn.
In May 1738, Charles Wesley was suffering from pleurisy, and during this time he was plagued with doubts about his faith. On May 21st, he attend a Bible study where he listened to a number of testimonies. He was deeply moved by this experience and considered it to be the moment that he turned to Christ.
Eleven years later, he wrote a 18 stanza poem about his conversion. It is thought to be inspired by Peter Bohler, an influential Moravian leader, who said “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ Jesus with all of them.”
In our adult Sunday School class, we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. This verse was in lesson from last week:
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3
Ever since then, I’ve been pondering what it means to be hidden with Christ. This isn’t easy to grasp. Our union with Christ is not just something to look forward to, but something that has already happened. We can be at peace because the work of atonement is completed. Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” Sin can no longer overpower or condemn us. Whatever happens to us in this life, our place is secure. As I thought about that, the hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul, popped into my mind. It also talks about Christ “hiding” us and maybe I remembered that unconsciously. At any rate, listen and give thanks that you are a new creation and you are in Christ.
For another hymn by Charles Wesley see these posts:
“A bright, happy soul, rejoicing in all God’s gifts, seeing cause for thankfulness and gladness in everything, counting up mercies rather than trials, looking at the bright side, even of sickness, bereavement, and death — what a very fountain of goodness and love of Christ such a one is! I remember one who, worn with sickness and sleepless nights, answered to the question if the nights did not seem interminable: ‘Oh, no, I lie still, and count up my blessings!”
H. L. Sidney Lear
This quote was part of my devotional reading a few days ago. It seemed very personal, as I also often have sleepless nights (no, I’m not sick, it’s just age-related!). It also made me think of the hymn we sang in church this past Sunday, Rejoice the Lord is King. It was written by Charles Wesley in 1746 for Hymns on the Great Festivals and Other Occasions, and it certainly inspires a joyful heart.