Yesterday, Thursday 29MARCH was the 224th anniversary of the death of Charles Wesley, one of history’s most well-known and best-loved hymn writers. His contributions to the English-speaking church are remarkable, which becomes apparent when you read the introduction to his brief biography at ChristianHistory.net:
He was said to have averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years. He wrote 8,989 hymns, 10 times the volume composed by the only other candidate (Isaac Watts) who could conceivably claim to be the world’s greatest hymn writer.
Of these nearly 9,000 hymns, you’ll likely recognize “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” along with many others.
Duke Divinity School has done the hard work of putting together an organized collection that provides a “standard for scholarly study and citation.” The collection is organized by date of publication in PDFs that seek to match the original published resources. Each PDF also includes an editorial introduction about the resource.
Another online source for Charles Wesley hymns is, of course, CyberHymnal.org. Though this site only lists 265 of his hymns, each page gives you the option of playing a MIDI file of the tune, which is nice if you’ve forgotten (or want to learn) the melody. Once you’ve done that, you may want to search iTunes or Amazon to find a better version of the song.
If you’d like to learn more about his life and work, last year I read (and would recommend) the biography by John Tyson, entitled Assist Me to Proclaim. One thing that struck me in particular was the account of Charles’ humility, which is remarkable considering how talented and prolific his writing was.
I’ve also written a review of a video dramatization of his life and hymns, performed by John Jackman, which I enjoyed and benefited from.
And finally, let me list my favorite Wesley hymns. I find it remarkable and interesting that though Wesley wrote nearly 9,000 hymns, there are only a few that I know and love today. The march of time sifts through the multitude of hymns and allows the very best of them to float to the top. Here are my favorites (in order, even):
GLORY IS A SPECIAL WORD IN SCRIPTURE—
a word infused with the essence of God himself. It appears (along with its cognates) over 500 times in Scripture. One verse in particular is of great significance to us:
Sing out to the honor of his name;
make his praise glorious
In this verse, the psalmist (King David) exclaims with strength and power, “Sing out to the honor of His name“. The psalmist then follows this declamatory proclamation with an even stronger assertion:
Make His praise glorious!
There is to be nothing ordinary about this praise, it is to be of the highest order and of the greatest magnitude.
To create a powerful platform for praise, God inspired King David to marshal a corps of 4,000 professional musicians who were spiritually prepared, skillfully trained, highly organized and spent their lives giving praise to God.
The musicians were organized under three men of God (Levites) who carefully crafted their worship in a musically and theologically acceptable manner. (See 1 Chronicles 23 and 25.) David and his musicians would take no chances that their musical sacrifice of praise would be presented in a frivolous or careless way. This was music that was to exalt “the honor of His name and make His praise glorious!”
a spiritual environment
that brought this high worship of God
to the Israelites
in a way that united the best of music and poetry.
In Scripture, it’s important to note that glory is not only an attribute, it is an actual place: Glory…heaven, the dwelling place of God.
In looking forward to “glory”, Jonathan Edwards made this observation:
“If praising God in song is very much the employment of heaven…let all be exhorted to the work and duty of praising God [here on earth.]
(See: “Thankgsgiving Sermon”, 1734)
Note the reformer’s words regarding the use of music as a “work” and a “duty”. Like David’s original musical organization, music in heaven will be a joyous fulltime occupation infused with His glory, majesty and greatness!
For twenty-first century Christians this must all seem strange, having been persuaded by their culture that music:
a. exists for their own personal pleasure.
b. is all good–style is relative!
c. can be utilized for any purpose.
Today, begin your preparation for glory right now — forget popular culture and sing in the great tradition of King David and his spectacular choir of Levite musicians. Sing — and then memorize — a great hymn of the faith! You’ll be glad you did! To God be the Glory!
This video illustrates some very important points about worship, and what we perceive worship to be. Someone could close their eyes, half-heartedly listen to the words and “feel” the “spirit”..
We must be very careful that our worship is not just some kind of feel-good manifestation of the flesh or even our human spirit, but rather our whole being yielded to Christ for His Glory.
Sometimes when we worship, we don’t really mean it. What would it look like if we were to sing what we really meant? This was an illustration from a sermon about worship at First Orlando Worship, and it struck a chord.
GOD WANTS TO BE EDIFIED HIMSELF. AND WE’RE TO NOT SEEK SELF-EDIFICATION, BUT TO EDIFY GOD WITH ALL WE DO. SO IF YOU SEE A PERSON WITH A GREAT GIFT, TRYING TO DO SOMETHING TO GLORIFY THEMSELVES, YOUR OWN DISCERNMENT OF THE SPIRIT TELLS YOU THAT’S WRONG. ~ WILLIAM BRANHAM
“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose—all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.” – William Temple
Thank you, Brother Neville. As I said this morning, it’s always good to come to the house of the Lord. I was kind of in the notion of calling the little misses here tonight to sing a song that I heard her singing in my house the other day. I believe we still got time for it if she isn’t too backward. Miss Jeffries, what do you think about that, that little song that you sang over there; I come in, and heard it being sung, and I liked it real well. And I hope I’m not embarrassing you to ask you to sing it again. “Tell Me His Name,” or something like that. Is that it? I’d like to hear it again. I know you’ll all enjoy it.
→ [click to listen as Sister Jeffries sings “Tell Me His Name Again.”]
They tell me of love’s sweet old story.
They tell me of a wonderful name.
It thrills my soul with its glory.
It burns in my heart like a flame.
They say He’s the one that so loved me,
That in Heaven He could not remain;
He came down to seek and to save me.
Oh, tell me His name again.
Oh, tell me His name again
And sing me the sweet refrain
Of Him who in love, came down from above
To die on the cross in shame.
This story my heart has been stirred,
The sweetest I’ve ever heard,
It banishes fear; it brings hope and cheer,
Oh tell me His name again
They say He was born in a manger,
That there was no room in the inn;
And in His own world was a stranger,
But loved us in spite of our sins;
They said that His path led to Calvary,
And one day He died there in shame.
He gave His great life a ransom.
Oh, tell me His name again.
They call Him the sweet Rose of Sharon.
They call Him the lily so fair.
They call Him the great rock of ages.
They call Him the bright morning star.
He’s a prophet, a priest, and redeemer,
The king of all kings He now reigns.
He’s coming in power and glory.
Oh, tell me His name again.
Oh, I just love that. I love His name. You know what caused me to think that, to have that little lady to sing it? She’s a little school chum to my little girl, Rebekah. I was back the other morning doing something in the room, and I heard that singing, and I thought, “Well, I will just have her to sing that at church sometime.” On the road down, I’d taken the children to school, and I spoke to her about the singing. And she said, “I just raised up some. . . .” I might not say it in the same words. But she said, “I raised up the other night, and was in the bed, and was thinking of that song. And I got such a blessing.” Well, I thought that’s outstanding for a teen-age girl, talk about the Holy Spirit blessing them, especially in this community, in this city. We need more teen-age girls like that. We do. And this other little girl that just sang, too, here a few minutes ago (I don’t know her name) but enjoying those children, little teen-aged girls singing. You know, the walk that we make makes an example for others. It really is.What Does Thou Here? | A sermon preached March 1st, 1959 in Jeffersonville, Indiana, USA by William Branham
Music choice is important. But how are we to evaluate the music in our lives? Here are twelve major principles, based on the Word of God, which can help us, as Christians, to do so. They can be applied to any music, but they are worth considering in relation to the music we use in the services of the church, both what is presented from the platform, and what is sung by the congregation.
1. HUMILITY. In the complexities of understanding and evaluating music, none of us has all the answers (cf. Rom. 12:3, 10; 14:1).
2.UNIQUENESS. We are each different as to the music in our lives, and with respect to how it affects us (cf. Rom. 12:3-6a; I Cor. 12:14, 27).
3. INTEGRATION. Earthly things can have a valid place in our Christian lives, as we assess them biblically and use them wisely (cf. I Cor. 7:31; I Tim. 6:17b).
4. ORIGIN. The source of a piece of music can affect it in significant ways (cf. Prov. 15:2, 28; Lk. 6:45).
5. TRADITION. The wise person appreciates the heritage of the past and will continue to employ it and be enriched by it (cf. Deut. 32:7; Jer. 6:16; contrast Acts 17:21).
6. PURPOSE. The purpose of the musician and of his music will influence how it is used, and therefore how it affects us (cf. I Cor. 9:25; 10:31; contrast Phil. 3:18-19).
7. BALANCE. Music with its various elements in balance reflects the nature of God and accomplishes the purposes of God (cf. I Cor. 14:33, 40; Tit. 1:5a).
Such elements include: melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics. If there are lyrics, the music should serve as an appropriate vehicle to enhance their message.
8. SEPARATION. We must not, with our music, encourage or glorify that attachment to this sinful world that God hates (cf. II Cor. 6:14-17; I Jn. 2:15-17).
9. ASSOCIATION. Communication problems arise if the music accompanying a Christian message is associated in the mind of the hearer with a corrupt and sinful lifestyle (cf. I Cor. 8:4, 7; 14:8; 15:33).
10. EFFECT. Music is a medium of expression (in a sense, a language) which can communicate with powerful effect (cf. I Sam. 16:23; Col. 3:16; and see Gal. 6:7).
11. MESSAGE. The message a song delivers depends upon several components working effectively together:
I heard them other day
on the radio, singing,
"When the Saint's Go Marching In," in ragtime,
"When I See the Blood," in boogie woogie.
What a disgrace!
Do you think a holy God can listen to that and be just,
and not judge it?
~ William Branham
- THE.HANDWRITING.ON.THE.WALL_ JEFF.IN SUNDAY_ 58-0309M