[Charles Wesley: 1707-1788]
Charles wrote this hymn to describe his experience of when he received an assurance of his salvation. We often think of his brother's "heart-warming" Aldersgate experience, but we sometimes forget that Charles also had an equally powerful experience of God's amazing grace.
The verses of this hymn build upon each other and they describe the effect that God's grace can have on a person's life. As the hymn progresses, I get more and more choked up as I sing them because the lyrics and the music gradually progress to the last verse which celebrates the ultimate good news of our faith.
"No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine; alive in him, my living head, and clothed in righteousness divine, bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own. Bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown, through Christ my own."
As awesome as this final verse is, it's the 4th verse that always gets me.
"Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee."
Churches do not sing this hymn nearly enough. I think it's because people are not as familiar with the melody. It's one of those songs that you need to listen to a few times and before you know it, you totally fall in love with the combination of the lyrics and the melody. Charles Wesley certainly had an incredible gift of describing and celebrating God's grace made known to us through Jesus Christ.
So what do you think? Is this in your top ten or top five hymns? Right now, it's my favorite hymn!