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Hymn History: “Arise, My Soul, Arise!”

2 min

For years, Charles Wesley determined to zealously serve God. In college he and his brother started a “Holy Club,” whose members fasted and did good deeds. The brothers also sailed from England across the ocean to evangelize the Native Americans in the New World. Yet, for all their goodwill and charity at home and abroad, the two young men were lost, lacking the true Answer for their souls. They needed God’s forgiveness.

Charles Wesley began to understand forgiveness when homeward bound from a missionary jour-ney. Aboard ship he met Mr. Thomas Bray, whom Mr. Wesley described as “a poor, innocent mechanic who knows nothing but Christ.” Upon arriving in England, Mr. Wesley also met Mr. Bray’s sister who also shared with him about Christ and salvation. Other believers soon entered his circle of friends. According to his personal diary, on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 1738, the young man finally understood forgiveness and salvation, and gave his life to Christ. Mr. Wesley wrote, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.”

Finally at peace with God, Mr. Wesley’s Christian work now sprang from a grateful heart. He joined his brother, John, who also was now a born-again believer, and the two brothers became circuit riders, traveling on horseback throughout England to proclaim the Good News to all. Wherever they went, both men purposed to organize Bible studies and prayer groups. 

Mr. Wesley’s hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise!” was published four years after his conversion. Each line declares his praise and gratefulness for Christ’s sacrifice. The final four lines proclaim the confidence God’s forgiveness yields when we can call Him “Father!”

I now am reconciled; His pard’ning voice I hear.
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.

From the useless toil of trying to earn God’s grace to the eternal joy of accepting Christ’s sacrifice on his behalf, Mr. Wesley experienced the freedom forgiveness brings. After his marriage in 1749, he settled down to ministering primarily in Bristol and London. He developed a deep desire to help those who were social outcasts. As he ministered to the inmates at Newgate Prison, he especially turned his attention toward those sentenced to death. Mr. Wesley spent untold hours with these hopeless men, praying with them before their executions. 

When we are tempted to reject those who do wrong, may we, too, remember the great forgiveness God has extended to us for our wrongs against Him! May we forgive others completely and allow God’s love to flow through us to them.

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