Jim Gordon is busy preparing lectures on ‘the role of Charles Wesley’s hymns in helping give shape and content to emergent Evangelical spirituality’. Sounds great. Anyway, here’s a taste of what he’s on about:
Charles’ theology is not for the faint hearted conservative scared of overstating the divine readiness to bless. Amongst his more adventurous efforts are a number of hymns on the Triune God, in the form of prayers that the eternal Trinity come in renewing power to indwell and renew the human heart. The renewal of God’s image in the redeemed, renewed and perfected heart is the definitive goal of Charles Wesley’s theology. He never, ever, underestimated the possibilities of divine grace and eternal love as they worked on fallen, fallible human nature with redemptive intent. If that gave his hymns an unsettling note of extravagance, Charles would have preferred that to a theology always wanting to qualify and limit grace to the reach of human reason, even the sanctified reason of the theologically timid.
I’m unable to resist citing one of my favourite hymns:
Arise, my soul, arise;
Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
He ever lives above,
For me to intercede;
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Five bleeding wounds He bears;
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
They strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away,
The presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.
My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry!