Essay / Theology

Should the Earth This Moment Cleave

In 1750, after two earthquakes hit England, Charles Wesley wrote two small volumes of hymns on earthquakes. It is not too much to say that he developed a whole theology of earthquakes, in song. They answer the question, when a believer’s country is struck by such a disaster, what should that believer say, or sing, to God?

Here is hymn #5 from the first collection.

God of awful majesty,
Thy glorious name we praise!
Known are all thy works to thee
Of judgment, and of grace:
In thine only breast it lies
To raise or sink, revive or slay:
Wilt thou yet again chastise,
Or turn thy wrath away?

2 Vengeance on thy foes to take
Hast thou in anger sworn?
Sworn again our earth to shake,
And from its base o’erturn?
Surely then to Abraham’s seed
Thou shalt reveal the wrath to come,
Speak the punishment decreed,
And warn us of our doom.

3 But if so thy will ordain
Its close design to hide,
Let us in thy work remain,
And in thy love abide;
Stand for all events prepar’d,
With reverence8 and godly fear;
Stand for ever on our guard,
’Till thy great arm appear.

4 Blessed are the servants, Lord,
Whom thou shalt watching find,
Hanging on thy faithful word,
And to thy will resign’d;
Safe amidst the darts of death,
Secure they rest in all alarms,
Sure, their Lord hath spread beneath
His everlasting arms.

5 Should the earth this moment cleave,
And swallow up the just,
Jesus would their souls receive,
And guard their sleeping dust:
Tho’ their dust the whirlwind sweep
To earth’s profoundest center driven,
Soon, emerging from the deep,
They rise, they mount to heaven!

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