Friday, March 29, 2013

Song Lyric of the Day (Charles Wesley, on the ‘Love Divine’)

“O Love divine, what hast thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father's coeternal Son
bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th' immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!”—“O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done,” lyrics by Charles Wesley, music by Isaac B. Woodbury

Charles Wesley (1707-1788) might have been the younger brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodist faith, but he had his own unique voice within the movement, as well as within the history of Christianity. That comes from having written nearly 9,000 hymns—an average of 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years—a record that no other Christian composer (no, not even the ubiquitous Isaac Watts) has equaled. John might have made his listeners think, but Charles made them lift their voices.

On this date 225 years ago, Charles Wesley died. I think that he would have been glad at the thought that, on certain days (such as this one), the anniversary of his death has fallen on Good Friday, when Jesus “bore all my sins upon the tree.”

The image accompanying this post is Crucifixion with Sts. Mary Virgin, Mary Magdalen, John and Jerome (ca. 1503), an oil-on-panel work by the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. This masterpiece now hangs in the National Gallery in London.

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