Week 5: Charles Wesley


Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

Text: Charles Wesley (1707–1788), 1740

Tune: Johannn Gottlob Werner (1777–1822), 1815

  1. This text is somewhat unique in that it is so focused on a single metaphor, the idea of light. What are some of the different ideas that Wesley communicates using the metaphor of light (and dark)? How do they fit together in the overall message of the hymn?
    • Originally titled as a “Morning Hymn”, with connections to dawn & morning light
      • Interestingly, is missing some typical features of morning hymns (e.g. mention of previous day’s rest, dangers/work of the day ahead)
    • Obvious reference is to John 8:12 (“I am the light of the world”)
      • Here means Christ is the conqueror of darkness (sin, despair) and bringer of life everlasting
    • “Sun of Righteousness” is a phrase from Malachi 4:2, talking about the coming day of judgment
      • May remind of part in another Wesley hymn, “Hark The Herald”, that quotes the full verse:

        Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
        Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.

    • “Dayspring” literally means “sunrise”, referring to the dawning of the morning light
      • From Zacharias’s prophecy of Jesus after the birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1:78
      • In context, refers to the first coming (advent) of Jesus
    • “Daystar” is the last star to appear in the east before the sun rises
      • Comes from 2 Peter 1:19, talking spiritual “illumination”, bringing insight and guidance
      • Could also quote from Revelation 22:16, where Jesus identifies himself as the “morning star” to the seven churches
      • In context, refers to the coming of Jesus in your life, and potentially the second coming (advent) of Jesus

O for a Heart to Praise My God

Text: Charles Wesley (1707–1788), 1742

Tune: Thomas Haweis (1734–1820), 1792

  1. This text has a lot of different descriptions of what a “renewed” heart looks like. Which stand out to you as the most important, and why? How should having a “copy” of God’s heart change the way you live?

    • “Heart to praise” and “always feels thy blood” go together - praise is the response to God’s grace
    • “Only Christ is heard to speak” is phrased from an outside perspective - when others hear us speak, they should only hear Jesus
      • Thus, a renewed spirit is not just an internal process; there should be clear outward effects
    • Verse 3 has an odd grouping of adjectives
      • “Believing”, “true”, “humble”, “contrite” seem like things we can choose for ourselves
      • “Clean”, on the other hand, seems like something only God can create in us
    • Having a “copy” of God’s heart means loving like He does: unconditionally and for everyone, grieved by sin and injustice, etc.
      • Interesting parallel with being “made in God’s image”
  2. The final words “thy new, best name of Love” recalls another text of Wesley’s, “Come O Thou Traveler Unknown” (titled “Wrestling Jacob”, also written in 1742). Read the poem aloud as a class. Do you see other parallels between the two?

    • The title “Wrestling Jacob” comes from Genesis 32:24-32
    • John recorded that Isaac Watts once said that this one poem “was worth all the verses he himself had written”
    • The tenacity shown by the narrator seems to embody a “believing, true” heart
    • “When I am weak, then I am strong” - like asking for strength through a “lowly, contrite” heart
    • “The morning breaks, the shadows flee” and “Sun of Righteousness” - sounds like “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”

Rejoice, the Lord is King

Text: Charles Wesley (1707–1788), 1744

Tune: John Darwall (1731–1789), 1770

  1. This hymn is a wonderful blend of victorious imagery from both Christ’s resurrection and his second coming. As Christians, how should this knowledge of God’s ultimate victory affect the way we live?

    • The theme of praise/rejoicing appears in both the first and last verses (as well as the refrain), serving as a bookend for the hymn
      • This is a very Psalm-like structure, see Psalm 97
    • This knowledge can be held by all Christians; parallels the Apostles’ Creed, “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almights, from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead”
    • We need not live in fear or worry because “His kingdom cannot fail”
    • We can look forward in hope to living in heaven with Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:52, “for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed”)
    • The refrain is a quote of Philippians 4:4, and the implication is straightforward: offer your hearts to God, offer your voice in praise, and live joyfully
  2. Though it occasianlly appears with other tunes, Darwall’s is an overwhelming favorite for use with this hymn. What feature can you see in the music that make it such a good fit?

    • Arpeggiated beginning of the melody gives it a triumphant, fanfare-like feel
    • Rising scale for the refrain at the end of each verse has a dramatic effect, with a built-in crescendo