Scripture Verse

Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. Revelation 12:7

Introduction

portrait
Charles Wesley
(1707–1788)

Words: Charles Wes­ley, Hymns and Sac­red Po­ems (Lon­don: Stra­han, 1739), pag­es 101–03.

Music: St. Pe­ters­burg, at­trib­ut­ed to Dmi­tri S. Bort­ni­an­sky, 1825 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:

portrait
Dmitri S. Bortniansky
(1752–1825)

Origin of the Hymn

What the au­thor of this hymn has wri­tten con­cern­ing it is so full of in­ter­est, we can­not re­frain from quot­ing it. Af­ter the spir­it­u­al guida­nce which the broth­ers Wes­ley had re­ceived from Pe­ter Boh­ler, they were sep­a­rat­ed, and Charles We­sley went to re­side with a poor bra­zier named Tho­mas Bray, in Lit­tle Bri­tain, who knew noth­ing but Christ, who had to sup­ply Boh­ler’s place in ex­plain­ing the way of sal­va­tion by faith.

On 21st May, 1738, Charles Wes­ley was en­a­bled to say, I be­lieve, I be­lieve! What fol­lows is from his Jour­nal, un­der the date of 23rd May.

At nine I be­gan a hymn on my con­ver­sion, but was per­suad­ed to break off for fear of pride. Mr. Bray com­ing, en­cour­aged me to pro­ceed in spite of Sa­tan. I prayed Christ to stand by me and fin­ished the hymn. Up­on my af­ter­wards show­ing it to Mr. Bray, the de­vil threw in a fiery dart, sug­gest­ing that it was wrong, and I had di­spleased God. My heart sank with­in me; when, cast­ing my eyes up­on a Pray­er-book, I met an an­swer for him: Why boast­est thou thy­self, thou ty­rant, that thou must do mis­chief?

Up­on this I clear­ly dis­cerned that it was a de­vice of the en­e­my to keep back glo­ry from God. And it is not un­u­su­al with him to preach hu­mil­i­ty, when speak­ing will en­dan­ger his king­dom, or do hon­our to Christ. Least of all would he have us tell what things God has done for our souls; so ten­der­ly does he guard us from pride. But God has showed me He can de­fend me from it while speak­ing for Him.

There is, says the Rev. John Kirk, a re­mark­a­ble co­in­ci­dence be­tween the spir­it and lang­uage of the Jour­nal and that of the hymn. As soon as he be­gins to ex­press his joy he is tempt­ed to stay his pen. He re­solves to per­form his vows un­to the Lord, of not hid­ing His right­eous­ness with­in his heart. This har­mo­nis­es ex­act­ly with the third and fourth vers­es, prob­ab­ly com­posed af­ter the temp­ta­tion to de­sist. He asks, And shall I slight my Fa­ther’s love? &c.

Two days af­ter­wards, John Wes­ley al­so was able to be­lieve to the sal­va­tion of his soul. Hap­py in the par­don­ing love of God, John was ac­com­pan­ied by a num­ber of his friends, short­ly be­fore ten at night, to Mr. Bray’s house in Lit­tle Bri­tain, where Charles was con­fined by ill­ness. The two broth­ers and their com­pan­ions were ov­er­joyed, and Charles re­cords, We sang the hymn with great joy, and part­ed with pray­er.

Stevenson, pp. 40–41

Lyrics

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?

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!

And shall I slight my Father’s love?
Or basely fear His gifts to own?
Unmindful of His favors prove?
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
Refuse His righteousness to impart,
By hiding it within my heart?

No— though the ancient dragon rage,
And call forth all his hosts to war,
Though earth’s self-righteous sons engage
Them and their god alike I dare:
Jesus the sinner’s friend proclaim,
Jesus, to sinners still the same.

Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads His arms t’embrace you all;
Sinners alone His grace receives;
No need of Him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.

Come all ye Magdalens in lust,
Ye ruffians fell in murders old;
Repent, and live: despair and trust!
Jesus for you to death was sold;
Though hell protest, and earth repine,
He died for crimes like yours—and mine.

Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin!
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in.
He calls you now, invites you home—
Come, O my guilty brethren, come!

For you the purple current flowed
In pardons from His wounded side,
Languished for you th’eternal God,
For you the Prince of Glory died:
Believe, and all your sin’s forgiven;
Only believe, and yours is Heaven!