Jesus, Lover of My Soul – Charles Wesley
UM Hymnal #479 MARTYN
We are only 4 weeks into our hymn blog and Charles is getting up close and personal. In fact, he wrote this hymn in 1740, probably shortly after his own conversion in October of 1738. The language is quite intimate, even for today, and in many ways, it feels more fitting in a service that celebrates the immanent God like our Encounter service. Originally the hymn was published under the title “In Temptation” in 5 stanzas as shown below but soon the 3rd stanza was left out and the United Methodist Hymnal contains stanzas 1,2,4 and 5. John Wesley did not include this hymn in any of his collections because he did not think it to be associate the divine Christ with words like lover or bosom. Charles, the poet, did not shy away from the close intimacy these words demonstrate. It is an interesting example of the affinity for the immanent God versus the transcendent God.
1 Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high:
hide me, O my Savior, hide,
'til the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!
2 Other refuge have I none,
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me!
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
3 Wilt thou not regard my call?
Wilt thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sing, I faint, I fall!
Lo, on thee I cast my care!
Reach me out thy gracious hand!
While I of thy strength receive,
hoping against hope I stand,
Dying, and behold I live!
4 Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
more than all in thee I find:
raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy name;
I am all unrighteousness;
false and full of sin I am,
thou art full of truth and grace.
5 Plenteous grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound;
make and keep me pure within:
thou of life the fountain art,
freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.
The text is probably based on the Wisdom literature “Wisdom of Solomon” that can be found in the Apocrypha.
“But thou sparest all, for they are thine, O lord, thou lover of souls”.
The first stanza reminds me of a child running to a parent’s safety and I can only imagine what these words might have meant to anyone seeking protection from violence and persecution. The Wesley's were abolitionist and familiar with the pain or African slaves. It is God, our parent, always ready to receive us. As Wesley was a new convent, he was like a child staying close to the Father’s/Mother’s hand. The second stanza intensifies the image of protection seeker. Stanza three has been left out in most hymnals as it represents moments of doubts and yet it is that moment that endears the hymn to me. When we are in the pits, is it not there when we doubt the presence of God? Stanza four points to the ever-present feeling of unworthiness and guilt. By making himself that vulnerable, Charles’ words speak deeply to the souls who feel the same and are too ashamed to share it. The final stanza speaks to the ongoing sanctifying grace of God. As we invite Jesus into our hearts, the Holy Spirit is at work to bring the everlasting healing of our broken selves. No sin is too big, no burden too heavy, when we respond to the knocking Christ, our brokenness is being healed, day by day.
There are several stories revolving around this hymn. I want to share story of the soldier in the American Civil War who was about to shoot a picket from the other side when he heard him singing, ‘Cover my defenseless head/With the shadow of thy wing.'” All this makes me think of how the appeal to others out of deep vulnerability makes us stronger and more loving. We need not only God but also one another in the healing of our brokenness.
Originally, we had discussed to use the tune EASTER HYMN for this text because the tune that it is matched up with in the hymnal, ABERYSTWYTH, seems way too sad for a sending hymn. However, EASTER HYMN that you might all know as the triumphant tune to “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” does not match this intimate text. So, we looked for another tune and found one that might be less familiar but very singable. We look forward to singing together these amazing words which pour out of Charles Wesley’s heart.
 The apocrypha are a set of texts included in the Latin Bible translation called Vulgate and the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible called Septuagint. However, these texts were not included in the Hebrew Bible. Catholic tradition includes these texts while Protestants do not. Luther did not translate anything from the Hebrew Bible that was not in the Hebrew text. Thus, Protestant bibles do not include the books within the Old Testament but have often included them in a separate section, usually called the Apocrypha.
 Stanza two, last two lines.
Rev. Suzi Byrd