Highlights

Amazing love! How can it be?

May 2017    

“I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ… I saw that by faith I stood; by the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin. I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness… yet confident of Christ’s protection,” wrote Charles Wesley in his journal on May 20, 1738.[1]

Indeed, through His incarnation, Christ accomplished what “Adam’s helpless race” could not. God extends His redeeming grace, “immense and free”, to all who turn to Christ in faith. Charles himself experienced the assurance of the fullness of God’s grace in his life after returning from a disappointing mission trip in America and meeting a group of Moravians in the Aldersgate Hall in London. Shortly after his experience of assurance, Charles responded by writing a hymn of grateful adoration for God’s great plan of redemption.

‘And Can It Be that I Should Gain’ has become a great favourite among Methodists since it was published in London in 1839.[1] Charles never ceased to wonder at the amazing love of God who bled and died for him. Even though Charles had a strict religious education at Oxford University, he had no peace and joy in his heart and life until that night on 21 May 1738, when his “chains fell off” and his “heart was free.”

Charles probably borrowed from the story of Peter’s release from prison in Acts 12:6-9, when he portrayed his conversion in stanza four. Just as God sent an angel to open the prison doors and loosen Peter’s chains, Charles’ “imprisoned spirit” found freedom from the bondage of sin through faith in Christ.

I believe all of us have our own ‘Aldersgate’ experience in our spiritual lives. So “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1-2, NIV) that we may “approach the eternal throne and claim the crown, through Christ my own.” (stanza five)

[1] The Journal of Charles Wesley, accessed via http://wesley.nnu.edu/charleswesley/the-journal-of-charles-wesley-1707-1788/the-journal-of-charleswesley-may-1-august-31-1738

[2] Frank Colquhoun, A Hymn Companion: Insight into Three Hundred Christian Hymns (Wilton: Morehouse Barlow, 1985), 168.

 

And Can It Be that I Should Gain (The United Methodist Hymnal, #363)

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Saviour’s blood!
Died He for me, who caused His pain!
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
(so free, so infinite His grace!),
emptied Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for, O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for, O my God, it found out 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.

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 th’eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Words: Charles Wesley, 1739 (Acts 16:26)
Music: Thomas Campbell, 1835

Dr Yeo Teck Beng –

is Principal of the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

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