Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 Music: Joseph Parry, 1841-1903
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 Saviour, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.
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 defenceless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
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.
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.
A hymn which calls upon Jesus to be our refuge from the storms of life. The three greatest hymn-writers in English are Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby. Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote the text of this hymn shortly after his conversion. There are many who think that the hymn we are studying today is the greatest hymn ever written; all men agree that it is the best of Wesley’s hymns, although he wrote more than six thousand hymns. Many of these six thousand hymns are all very popular hymns and they rank highest among great hymns of all time. Hymns like: “Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,” “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,” “A charge to keep I have,” “Arise, my soul, arise,” “Love divine, all love excelling,” “Depth of mercy! Can there be,” “Soldiers of Christ, arise,” “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing,” and the noble Christmas hymn, “Hark! the herald angels sing.” That is a wonderful list of great hymns to be written by one man.
No one knows the exact circumstances under which it was written. There are several stories that I have come across while researching on this song and I have just decided to mention them all. Unauthenticated stories about events leading to the hymn’s origin include a bird that flew into Wesley’s room for safety in a rainstorm, and an incident where Charles hid under a hedge with his brother after being attacked by an angry mob opposed to their preaching. However, it does bear the marks of three tremendous experiences in his early life–the near sinking of his ship during a great storm on the Atlantic when returning from Georgia to England in 1736; his great spiritual awakening and change on May 21, 1738; and his preaching to the prisoners in Negate Prison in July, 1738, which climaxed with the execution of ten of them at Tyburn Hill. All these could have somehow led to the writing of the hymn.
After a long life of nearly eighty years, Charles Wesley died, on March 29, 1788 and it is said that this was [Charles] Finney’s last song, sung by him the day before his death. The hymn has brought comfort to innumerable death-beds since.
Charles Wesley, next to the youngest of nineteen children, was born at Epworth, England, on December 18, . His father was Rev. Samuel Wesley, and his mother, Susannah Wesley, was a very remarkable woman. When he was a boy of fifteen, an Irish Member of Parliament, Garret Wesley, a rich man, wanted to adopt him. His father left him to decide the matter, and he decided in the negative. The boy that was finally adopted became the father of the Duke of Wellington (Lord “Wellesley,” as he spelled “Wesley”), who conquered Napoleon at Waterloo. How history might have been changed if young Charles Wesley had not decided as he did!
In 1735 Wesley became a clergyman of the Church of England, and went with his brother John on a missionary journey to Georgia, becoming secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. Within a year, broken in health and discouraged, he was compelled to return to England.
Years before this, when Charles Wesley was at Oxford, he and his friends were so strict in their religious methods that they were nicknamed “Methodists.” But both Charles and John had to learn more truly what religion really is. Charles first learned it from Peter Böhler, a Moravian of devout spirit, and from Thomas Bray, an unlearned mechanic who knew Jesus Christ. John soon after had the same experience, and from their vivified preaching sprung the great Methodist churches of today. Under the preaching of the Wesleys — especially that of John Wesley, for Charles soon withdrew from the more active work — revivals flamed all over England. There was much persecution. Charles himself was driven from his church. Many of his hymns were written in time of trial, and it is said that “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” was written just after the poet and his brother had been driven by a violent mob from the place where they had been preaching. Another story (and neither story can be verified) says that the hymn was written just after a frightened little bird, pursued by a hawk, had flown into Wesley’s window and crept into the folds of his coat. The probable date of the hymn is 1740.
The song emphasizes how important it is for us to look to Jesus for strength and comfort.
According to stanza 1, Jesus is the lover of our souls
“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, Till the storm of life is past;
Save into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last!”
There is no doubt that Jesus loves us: Rom. 8.35-39. Because He loves us, He will hide us in the storms of life: Ps. 17.8. And with His love, He will guide us safely into the eternal haven: Heb. 6.19-20
According to stanza 2, Jesus is the refuge to which our souls cling
“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.”
The Lord has promised to be a refuge or stronghold in the day of trouble for all who trust in Him: Nah. 1.7. Therefore, we can be assured that He will never leave us alone: Heb. 13.5-6. And we can trust that He will always be there to help us: Ps. 46.1
According to stanza 3, omitted in most books, Jesus is the one on whom we call for strength when we are faint
“Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, 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!”
In this stanza, we see our own situation in life’s storms compared to Peter’s attempt to walk on the water: Matt. 14:28-31. Like Peter, we must look to Christ for strength: Eph. 6:10. The way in which we do this is to be crucified with Christ and while dying to live for Him: Gal. 2:20
According to stanza 4, Jesus is the source of supply for all we need.
“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.”
We can find more than all in Christ because He is all in all: Col. 3:11. Therefore, those who are fallen, faint, sick, and blind, especially when they see their unrighteousness, can find shelter in the Lord: Ps. 143:9-10. Even though we are false and full of sin, He is full of truth and grace: Jn. 1:14
According to stanza 5, Jesus is the provider of plenteous grace
“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 grace from our Lord Jesus Christ is able to provide mercy and comfort: 2 Cor. 1.2-3. As a result, the healing streams abound to make and keep us pure: Mal. 4.2. And the fountain of living water is provided that will spring up within our hearts and rise to all eternity: Jn. 4.10-14
This hymn has been called by someone, “The finest heart-hymn in the English language.” The famous American preacher Henry Ward Beecher said that he would rather have written it “than have all the fame of all the kings that ever sat upon the earth.” Its words remind me that whenever the storms of life seem to become overwhelming, I can fly for refuge to “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul.”