This is a favourite hymn, in part because of the rousing and popular tune LYDIA, to which it is usually sung in British Methodism. (I was surprised to discover, when doing some research online for this post, that some people consider this to be a difficult tune to sing.) Telford (The Methodist Hymn-Book Illustrated) comments “This hymn has stamped itself deep in the religious life of Methodism”.
Originally published in 1749 under the title ‘After preaching (in a church)’, the original hymn comprised 22 verses, beginning ‘Jesus, accept the grateful song’. (The hymn in its entirety can be found here.)
It has been suggested that the hymn was suggested by an incident that took place in Laneast, Cornwall in August 1744. Charles Wesley wrote in his journal:
“Between five and six in the evening I got to Mr. Bennet’s, and preached in his church, on, “Repent, and be converted.” Upon my speaking against their drunken revels, one contradicted and blasphemed. I asked, “Who is he that pleads for the devil?” and one answered in those very words, “I am he that pleads for the devil.” I took occasion from hence to show the revellers their champion, and the whole congregation their state by nature. Much good I saw immediately brought out of Satan’s evil. Then I set myself against his avowed advocate, and drove him out of the Christian assembly. I concluded with earnest prayer for him.”
On Sunday we will be singing this as the closing hymn. Lines 3 and 4 of the third verse make a connection with the lectionary readings.
Jesus – the name high over all,
In hell, or earth, or sky!
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.
Jesus, the name to sinners dear,
The name to sinners given!
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to heaven.
Jesus – the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
And life into the dead.
O that the world might taste and see,
The riches of his grace!
The arms of love that compass me,
Would all mankind embrace.
His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
‘Tis all my business here below,
To cry: ‘Behold the Lamb!’
Happy if with my latest breath
I might but gasp his name:
Preach him to all, and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!”