UM Hymnal #616 and #339
It took us a while but with this hymn we are entering the realm of 10+ stanza hymns. In fact, we are looking at 24 stanzas in the original publication. Why so many you ask? Well, it takes time to tell the story. The hymnal editor for the United Methodist Hymnal, Carlton Young, split up the stanzas and created two hymns because, and I do not have to tell you this, no Methodist church I have ever seen will actually sing a 24 stanza hymn. But, instead of cutting stanzas, the editor chose some for an invitation to become a disciple of Christ and some to celebrate Christ’s presence and grace in the Lord’s Supper. Please find below the original 24 stanzas. I highlighted them in green to reflect hymn # 339 intended to be an invitation and red for the communion hymn #616. I would encourage you to read the whole poem as it beautifully reflects the struggle of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,
Let every soul be Jesu’s guest,
You need not one be left behind,
For God hath bidden all mankind.
Sent by my Lord, on you I call,
The invitation is to all,
Come all the world; come, sinner, thou
All things in Christ are ready now.
Jesus to you His fullness brings,
A feast of marrow and fat things:
All, all in Christ is freely given,
Pardon, and holiness, and heaven.
Do not begin to make excuse,
Ah! Do not you His grace refuse;
Your worldly cares and pleasures leave,
And take what Jesus hath to give.
Your grounds forsake, your oxen quit,
Your every earthly thought forget,
Seek not the comforts of this life,
Nor sell your savior for a wife.
“Have me excused,” why will ye say?
Why will ye for damnation pray?
Have you excused – from joy and peace!
Have you excused – from happiness:
Excused from coming to a feast!
Excused from being Jesus’s guest!
From knowing now your sins forgiven,
From tasting here the joys of heaven!
Excused, alas! Why should you be
From health, and life, and liberty,
From entering into glorious rest,
From leaning on your Saviour’s breast!
Yet must I, Lord, to Thee complain,
The world hath made thy offers vain;
Too busy, or too happy they,
They will not, Lord, Thy call obey.
Go then, my angry Master said,
Since these on all My mercies tread,
Invite the rich and great no more,
But preach My gospel to the poor.
Confer not thou with flesh and blood,
Go quickly forth, invite the crowd,
Search every lane, and every street,
And bring in all the souls you meet.
Come then, ye souls by sin opprest,
Ye restless wanderers after rest,
Ye poor, and main’d, and halt, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.
Sinners my gracious Lord receives,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves;
Drunkards, and all ye hellish crew,
I have a message now to you.
Come, and partake the gospel feast,
Be saved from sin, in Jesus rest:
O taste the goodness of our God,
And eat his flesh, and drink His blood.
‘Tis done: my all-redeeming Lord,
I have gone forth, and preach’d the word,
The sinners to Thy feast are come,
And yet, O Saviour, there is room.
Go then, my Lord again enjoin’d
And other wandering sinners find;
Go to the hedges and highways,
And offer all My pardoning grace.
The worst unto My supper press,
Monsters of daring wickedness,
Tell them My grace for all is free,
They cannot be too bad for Me.
Tell them, their sins are all forgiven,
Tell every creature under heaven
I died to save them from all sin,
And force the vagrants to come in.
Ye vagrant souls, on you I call,
(O that my voice could reach you all!)
Ye all are freely justified,
Ye all may live, for Christ hath died.
My message as from God receive,
Ye all may come to Christ, and live:
O let His love your hearts constrain,
Nor suffer Him to die in vain.
His love is mighty to compel,
His conquering love consent to feel;
Yield to His love’s resistless power,
And fight against your God no more!
See Him set forth before your eyes,
Behold the bleeding Sacrifice!
His offer’d love make haste to’ embrace,
And freely now be saved by grace.
Ye who believe His record true
Shall sup with Him, and He with you:
Come to the feast; be saved from sin,
For Jesus waits to take you in.
This is the time, no more delay,
This is the acceptable day,
Come in, this moment, at His call,
And live for Him who died for all.
The text begins with an invitation to receive the grace of God in Jesus Christ followed by how one should do that. Charles describes the answers and excuses he must have gotten and complains to God about the people’s refusal to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Jesus tells him to continue to invite all people, including the scum of the earth into a relationship with God. And so he goes and urgently invites us all to accept God’s steadfast and never ending love.
I wanted you to see the original intent of this hymn which has been somewhat lost in splitting it up and sticking it under the two different headers. Charles is urging us to invite others into the loving relationship with God that we are already experiencing. Why would we not want to share this with everyone on this earth? As we learn to live out our faith by doing all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as ever we can, we cannot forget to share that what we have with all, just as Charles describes it here with Jesus’ voice.
Because this Sunday we will celebrate Communion we will sing #616 to the tune listed in the hymnal. You will notice that we will bring in the elements of communion (Bread and Juice) while we sing this hymn. I want to invite you to invite someone else to the ‘Gospel Feast’ this coming Sunday.