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