Hymn of the week: Father of everlasting grace

This Thursday is Wesley Day and Sunday is Pentecost, so what more appropriate choice can there be as Hymn of the Week than one of Charles Wesley’s Pentecost hymns? Today also happens to be the anniversary of Charles’ conversion experience, three days before his brother John’s more celebrated spiritual reawakening at Aldersgate. This took place on Pentecost Sunday 21st May 1738. Charles was recuperating from pleurisy at the home of John Bray in Little Britain, just a short walk from Aldersgate.The following is an abbreviated version of the account in his Journal:

‘Sunday, May 21st 1738. I waked in hope and expectation of His coming. At nine my brother and some friends came, and sang a hymn to the Holy Ghost. My comfort and hope were hereby increased… I was composing myself to sleep, in quietness and peace, when I heard one come in,… and say: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thy infirmities.” The words struck me to the heart. I sighed, and said within myself, “O that Christ would but speak thus to me!” … Afterwards I opened upon Isaiah 40:1: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God…” I now found myself at peace with God and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. My temper for the rest of the day was mistrust of my own great, but before unknown, weakness. I saw that by faith I stood; by the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin… Under his protection I waked next morning, and rejoiced in reading the 107th Psalm, so nobly describing what God had done for my soul.’

Over the next few years Charles wrote a number of hymns on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Thirty-two of these were published in 1746 as Hymns of Petition and Thanksgiving for the Promise of The Father (also known as Hymns for Whit-Sunday). The first hymn in the collection was ‘Father of everlasting grace’.

Originally eight verses (verses 2-5 are omitted in modern hymnals) this is one of Charles Wesley’s most powerful hymns, and it is unfortunate that it is hardly known outside Methodism. Part of the joy in singing the hymn is the splendid tune STAMFORD.

The hymn has not escaped unscathed the modernising efforts of the editors of Singing the Faith. This is the version published in Hymns and Psalms:

Father of everlasting grace,
Thy goodness and thy truth we praise,
Thy goodness and thy truth we prove;
Thou hast, in honour of thy Son,
The gift unspeakable sent down,
The Spirit of life, and power, and love.

Send us the Spirit of thy Son,
To make the depths of Godhead known,
To make us share the life divine;
Send him the sprinkled blood to apply,
Send him our souls to sanctify,
And show and seal us ever thine.

So shall we pray, and never cease;
So shall we thankfully confess
Thy wisdom, truth, and power, and love;
With joy unspeakable adore,
And bless and praise thee evermore,
And serve thee as thy hosts above:

Till, added to that heavenly choir,
We raise our songs of triumph higher,
And praise thee in a nobler strain,
Out-soar the first-born seraph’s flight,
And sing, with all our friends in light,
Thy everlasting love to man.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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