I love this hymn penned by Charles Wesley, and it’s been on my mind especially after I read that the hymn is not about a thousand people singing about about Wesley having a thousand tongues himself to sing. Nice imagery!
Charles Wesley was suffering a bout of pleurisy in May, 1738, while he and his brother were studying under the Moravian scholar Peter Böhler in London. At the time, Wesley was plagued by extreme doubts about his faith. Taken to bed with the sickness on May 21 Wesley was attended by a group of Christians who offered him testimony and basic care, and he was deeply affected by this. He read from his Bible and found himself deeply affected by the words, and at peace with God. Shortly his strength began to return. He wrote of this experience in his journal and counted it as a renewal of his faith; when his brother John had a similar experience on the 24th, the two men met and sang a hymn Wesley had written in praise of his renewal.
One year from the experience, Wesley was taken with the urge to write another hymn, this one in commemoration of his renewal of faith. This hymn took the form of an 18-stanza poem, beginning with the opening lines ‘Glory to God, and praise, and love,/Be ever, ever given’ and was published in 1740 and entitled ‘For the anniversary day of one’s conversion’. The seventh verse, which begins, ‘O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing’, and which now is invariably the first verse of a shorter hymn recalls the words of Peter Böhler who said, ‘Had I a thousand tongues I would praise Him with them all.’ The hymn was placed first in John Wesley’s A Collection of Hymns for the People Called Methodists published in 1780. It appeared first in every (Wesleyan) Methodist hymnal from that time until the publication of Hymns and Psalms in 1983.
Here are a couple of stanza’s I enjoy:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great (orig. dear) Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.
Jesus! The name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.
See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.
About Ryan Peter
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.