Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is best known for writing hymns. But this was no ordinary hymn writer-some sources account that the man wrote just under 9,000 hymns in his lifetime! Others say no less than 6,500. Many go so far to say he was the greatest hymn writer of all time, and it is hard to argue with that statement based on sheer volume of his poetic text (not to mention, the theological depth of his hymns). Youngest of 18 children, he is also well known because of his brother, John Wesley, the preacher who founded the Methodist movement in Christianity. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with-Kingdom movers with zeal for Christ and for sharing the gospel of grace. Charles's hymns were catalysts for the movement, going hand-in-hand with John's sermons and pamphlets. A scholar indeed, Charles was an Oxford man and had a brilliant mind, but he coupled that mind with his devotion to Christianity, and formed the "Holy Club" there at Oxford.
The history behind this brotherly evangelistic duo is surprising, though. An interesting turn of events led Charles and John to re-think their faith, when they were missionaries in Georgia in 1735, facing persecution...The Moravians who were traveling with them by ship pointed them to a deeper intimacy with Christ, a joy and hope like they had never known, and an emphasis on worship through hymn singing. Charles soon met Christ in a whole new personal way. His "religious" life that he knew before was not enough. He came to discover that duty and discipline could not earn his salvation. He had been singularly focused on sharing the gospel, yet he hadn't actually grasped the gospel himself! He was devoted, but he lacked relationship with Jesus; he lacked simple faith. He surrendered to Christ anew and began his true journey with Jesus in 1738, three years after he had gone to Georgia. Psalm 40:3 launched his new ministry, "He hath put a new song in my mouth; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord." That was the spark that led aflame this man's heart for worship through song. The vast evangelical revival of the 1700s was marked by hymns, which communicated beautifully authentic joy found in Christ as well as deep Scriptural truths.
I personally fell in love with Charles's hymn, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," a few years ago while reading A. W. Tozer's book Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews (which I highly recommend and need to re-read myself!). I've always loved many other Wesley hymns ("And Can it Be," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing," to mention a few of his best known...) I was not as familiar with "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," and to be honest, I couldn't remember the typical tune that was paired with that one when I read the lyrics in Tozer's book a the end of chapter 2, which was a reflective teaching on Hebrews 2. The words just caught my attention and I couldn't stop reading them and pondering the beauty of them. I folded the bottom corner of the page and told myself I needed to come back and write a melody to go with those glorious verses...and I eventually did just that! The very first time I sang this song in public was on Sunday, February 1, 2015. It was during a typical Sunday morning worship service at my home church in Delaware, but this was no ordinary Sunday...it was 18 days before my brain surgery, to be exact. I had been waiting almost 8 months for surgery to remove a life-threatening brain tumor, and I knew my miracle was around the corner, only two-and-a-half weeks away. That Love Divine was about to carry me through like never before. I had to trust in Jesus like never before, putting all my hope and confidence in Him and His eternal plan.
What is holding you down, today, my friend? A burden of fear? A weight of sin? A past of pain? Lift your eyes, look to the Heavens, and let His Love, which excels all else-love which is perfect, divine, and holy-be that which carries you on and creates in you a new hope. Allow Him to change your heart from glory into glory. Allow Jesus to shower you with compassion and love like you've never known before. Allow the joy of Heaven to take you captive. Allow His mercies to crown you with loving-kindness. Allow the King of Glory to create in you a new heart. Allow Christ to work His salvation in you and give you the gift of grace. Allow the Lord to lead you into wonder, love, and praise, so deep that you will be completely lost in His presence and totally in awe of His holiness.