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Hymn History: All Saints Day

November 1 is All Saints Day, a sometimes-overlooked holy day in United Methodist congregations. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve, better known as Halloween, but is far more important in the life of the church.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly love.” On the same day in 1788, he writes, “I always find this a comfortable day.” The following year he calls it “a day that I peculiarly love.”

This may sound odd. United Methodists don’t believe in saints. Right?

Well, yes… and no.

Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard.The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in America in 1784, include a statement against “invocation of saints” (Article XIV—Of Purgatory, Book of Discipline ¶104). Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating.

However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether.

In an All Saints Day journal entry dated Monday, November 1, 1756, Wesley writes, “How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!” If your 18th century English is as rusty as mine, it might help to know that the word scruple means, “to be unwilling to do something because you think it is improper, morally wrong, etc.” (Merriam-Webster.com).

All Saints Day is an opportunity to give thanks for all those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a time to celebrate our history, what United Methodists call the tradition of the church.

From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us encouraging us, cheering us on.

Charles Wesley, John’s brother, picks up on this theme in his hymn that appears in our United Methodist Hymnal as “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above,” #709. In the first verse, he offers a wonderful image of the Church through the ages:

Let saints on earth unite to sing, with those to glory gone,
for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven, are one.

On All Saints Day we remember all those—famous or obscure—who are part of the “communion of saints” we confess whenever we recite The Apostles’ Creed. We tell the stories of the saints “to glory gone.”

Alongside the likes of Paul from the New Testament, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John and Charles Wesley, we tell stories of the grandmother who took us to church every Sunday. We remember the pastor who prayed with us in the hospital, and the neighbor who changed the oil in the family car. We give thanks for the youth leader who told us Jesus loved us, the kindergarten Sunday school teacher who showered us with that love, and the woman in the church who bought us groceries when we were out of work.

Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints encourage us to be all God has created us to be.

Charles Wesley’s hymn tells us those “to glory gone” are joined by the “saints on earth,” whom we also celebrate on All Saints Day. We think of the inspirational people with whom we worship on Sunday, and those across the world we will never meet. We celebrate fellow United Methodists who inspire us, and those of other denominations whose lives encourage us. We give thanks for those with whom we agree, as well as those whose views we do not share.

Additionally, we remember and pray for our sisters and brothers in Christ who faithfully follow Jesus in places where being labeled a Christian puts them in harm’s way.

On All Saints Day, we recognize that we are part of a giant choir singing the same song. It is the song Jesus taught his disciples; a tune that has resonated for more than 2,000 years; a melody sung in glory and on the earth. Our great privilege is to add our voices to this chorus.

The last verse of “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above” encourages us to sing faithfully while on earth, so we might join the heavenly chorus one day.

Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
and shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.

O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in heaven.

On All Saints Day, let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have led us to Jesus. As they have shared the gospel with us, may we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for the lives of his saints.

Adapted from https://www.umc.org/en/content/all-saints-day-a-holy-day-john-wesley-loved

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2022 in Holidays, Hymn History, Posts of Interest

 

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Charles Wesley: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
In Honor of Charles Wesley ‘s birthday today.   Wesley (1707-1788),  the younger brother of John Wesley wrote the words to this Christmas Carol.

Charles was a hymn writer and a poet, also known as one of the people who began the Methodist movement in the Church of England. Hark the Herald Angels Sing appeared in 1739 in a book called Hymns and Sacred Poems.

Wesley envisioned this being sung to the same tune as his hymn, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,  and in some hymnals it is included along with the more popular version.

This hymn was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and published as number 403 in “The Church Hymn Book” (New York and Chicago, USA, 1872).

To celebrate the invention of the printing press, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 called Festgesang or “Festival Song”. The melody of Mendelssohn’s cantata was then used by William H. Cummings and adapted it to the lyrics of Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

And, of course, no one can do it better than The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2020 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Charles Wesley

 

Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, most widely known for writing more than 6,000 hymns. Wesley was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, the son of Anglican cleric and poet Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna.

In the course of his career, Charles Wesley published the words of over six thousand hymns, many of which are still popular. These include:

  • “Arise my soul arise”
  • “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”
  • “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”

  • “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”
  • “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”
  • “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”
  • “Depth of Mercy, Can it Be”
  • “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee”
  • “Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise”
  • “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
  • “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”

  • “Jesus, The Name High Over All”
  • “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”
  • “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

  • “O for a Heart to Praise My God”
  • “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

  • “Rejoice, the Lord is King”
  • “Soldiers of Christ, Arise”
  • “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”
  • “Ye Servants of God”

 

Some 150 of his hymns are in the Methodist hymn book Hymns and Psalms, including “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, and “The Church Hymn Book” (In New York and Chicago, US, 1872) where “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” is published. Many of his hymns are translated into other languages and form the foundation for Methodist hymnals, as well as the Swedish Metodist-Episkopal-Kyrkans Psalmbok printed in Stockholm in 1892.

Born: December 18, 1707, Epworth, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Died: March 29, 1788, London, United Kingdom
 
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Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Posts of Interest

 

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The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley

charles-wesley

Charles Wesley lived from December 18, 1707 until March 29, 1788.  He was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley the Younger. Charles Wesley is mostly remembered for the over 6,000 hymns he wrote.

In the course of his career, Charles Wesley published the words of over six thousand hymns, many of which are still popular. These include:

  • “Arise my soul arise”
  • “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”
  • “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”
  • “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”
  • “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”
  • “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
  • “Depth of Mercy, Can it Be”
  • “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee”
  • “Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise”
  • “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”
  • “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”
  • “Jesus, The Name High Over All”
  • “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”
  • “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
  • “O for a Heart to Praise My God”
  • “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”
  • “Rejoice, the Lord is King”
  • “Soldiers of Christ, Arise”
  • “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”
  • “Ye Servants of God”

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2016 in hymns, Posts of Interest, Videos, Webmaster posts

 

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Why the Wesleys, and others, came to be called Methodists

disciples-path

 

Those who went to the kickoff for A Disciple’s Path heard part of this story from Pastor Dan.

For those who missed it or need a refresher, here you go…

 

Holy Club. Bible Moths. Methodists.

These are just a few of the names people called Charles and John Wesley and those gathered around them before anyone called their group a movement, let alone a church. Charles and John Wesley are considered founders of the Methodist movement that led to what is now The United Methodist Church.

It all began around 1728 with a few men at Oxford University, where Charles was finishing his studies. Charles Wesley had not always been very good at focusing on his studies or his faith. His first year at school was full of diversions like playing cards and enjoying music, theater and dancing. Nevertheless, by his final year, he was ready to devote himself to a more focused method of engaging study and faith.

Charles knew he could not do this on his own. He gathered with others in a small group, a practice common at Oxford in those days.

Read more at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/why-the-wesleys-and-others-came-to-be-called-Methodists

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Get Involved!, Pender UMC, Posts of Interest, Videos

 

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