Essay / Theology

Charles Wesley on Means of Grace

charles wesley gestures John Wesley preached the classic sermon on the Means of Grace, but his brother Charles decided that this was a doctrine that could be sung. So he wrote a very didactic hymn on the subject. Every line of thought in John’s sermon finds poetic expression somewhere in this 23-stanza hymn.

Hymn No. 83, “The Means of Grace”
(from Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740)

Long have I seem’d to serve Thee, Lord,
With unavailing pain;
Fasted, and pray’d and read Thy word,
And heard it preach’d, in vain.

Oft did I with th’ assembly join,
And near Thine altar drew;
A form of godliness was mine,
The power I never knew.

To please Thee thus (at last I see)
In vain I hoped and strove:
For what are outward things to Thee,
Unless they spring from love?

I see the perfect law requires
Truth in the inward parts,
Our full consent, our whole desires,
Our undivided hearts.

But I of means have made my boast,
Of means an idol made;
The spirit in the letter lost,
The substance in the shade.

I rested in the outward law,
Nor knew its deep design;
The length and breadth I never saw,
The height of love Divine.

Where am I now, or what my hope?
What can my weakness do?
JESU, to Thee my soul looks up,
‘Tis Thou must make it new.

Thine is the work, and Thine alone —
But shall I idly stand?
Shall I the written Rule disown,
And slight my God’s command?

Wildly shall I from Thine turn back,
A better path to find;
Thy holy ordinance forsake,
And cast Thy words behind?

Forbid it, gracious Lord, that I
Should ever learn Thee so!
No –let me with Thy word comply,
If I thy love would know.

Suffice for me, that Thou, my Lord,
Hast bid me fast and pray:
Thy will be done, Thy name adored;
‘Tis only mine t’obey.

Thou bidd’st me search the Sacred Leaves,
And taste the hallow’d Bread:
The kind commands my soul receives,
And longs on Thee to feed.

Still for Thy loving kindness, Lord,
I in Thy temple wait;
I look to find Thee in Thy word,
Or at Thy table meet.

Here, in Thine own appointed ways,
I wait to learn Thy will:
Silent I stand before Thy face,
And hear Thee say, “Be still!”

“Be still –and know that I am God!”
‘Tis all I live to know;
To feel the virtue of Thy blood,
And spread its praise below.

I wait my vigour to renew,
Thine image to retrieve,
The veil of outward things pass through,
And gasp in Thee to live.

I work, and own the labour vain;
And thus from works I cease:
I strive, and see my fruitless pain,
Till God create my peace.

Fruitless, till Thou Thyself impart,
Must all my efforts prove:
They cannot change a sinful heart,
They cannot purchase love.

I do the Thing Thy laws enjoin,
And then the strife gives o’er:
To Thee I then the whole resign:
I trust in means no more.

I trust in Him who stands between
The Father’s wrath and me:
JESU! Thou great eternal Mean,
I look for all from Thee.

Thy mercy pleads, Thy truth requires,
Thy promise call Thee down!
Not for the sake of my desires–
But, O! regard Thine own!

I seek no motive out of Thee:
Thine own desires fulfill;
If now Thy bowels yearn on me,
On me perform Thy will.

Doom, if Thou canst, to endless pains,
And drive me from Thy face:
But if Thy stronger love constrains,
Let me be saved by grace.

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