I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Saturday, March 19, 2016


Charles Wesley wrote O, FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES TO SING in 1739 to commemorate the first anniversary of his conversion to Christ.

The title comes from the seventh verse (which has been moved to the first verse in modern hymn books).  It is believed that the inspiration for this verse came from his friend, Peter Bohler, who once said to him, “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with them all.”

Like most hymnbooks, ours has five verses (printed below in bold type) .  Many Methodist books use seven and a few books contain ten verses.  But the original hymn had 18 verses.  Many of them have been omitted because the hymn is just too long for most congregational hymn singing.  A couple verses (12 and 17) were eliminated because of pressure from the political correctness crowd.

The exact order of the verses, as originally written, is uncertain but the order here is consistent with the majority of authoritative sources: 

In the first part of the hymn, Wesley employs two verses (1 and 7) of Praise and Glory to God as parentheses around his personal testimony (Vss. 2-6) of faith in his Savior. 

Verse eight is a prayer for assistance to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ to the world.  Then in verses 9-11, he expounds on the power of that name.

And then, in verses 12-17, he makes a general appeal to the lost world to turn from sin to Christ.  He closes with words of assurance in this life and the promise of our eternal hope.

1.    Glory to God, and praise and love,
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

2.    On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul, He shone,
And filled it with repose.

3.    Sudden expired the legal strife,
’Twas then I ceased to grieve;
My second, real, living life,
I then began to live.

4.    Then with my heart, I first believed;
Believed with faith divine.
Power with the Holy Ghost received,
To call the Savior mine.

5.    I felt my Lord’s atoning blood,
Close to my soul applied.
Me, me He loved, the Son of God;
For me, for me, He died!

6.    I found and owned His promise true,
Ascertained of my part.
My pardon passed in heaven, I knew,
When written on my heart.

7.   O for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise.
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

8.    My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim;
To spread through all the earth abroad,
the honors of Thy name.

9.    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.

10.  He breaks the power of canceled sin;
He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.

11.  He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive.
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
The humble poor believe.

12.  Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ.
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

13.  Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race.
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

14.  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.

15.  Harlots and publicans and thieves,
In holy triumph join!
Saved, is the sinner that believes,
From crimes as great as mine.

16.  Murderers, and all ye hellish crew;
Ye sons of lust and pride,
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me, the Savior died.

17.  Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light.
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the Æthiop white.

18.  In Christ, your head, ye then shall know;
Shall feel your sins forgiven.
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love in heaven.

This is a great hymn for doctrine, worship, and edification.  And even though we never sing all eighteen verses, it is worth occasional reading through in its entirety.

1 comment:

  1. Have you sung all 18 verses in a church service? It only takes about 5 minutes. You can sing this hymn also to "O God Our Help in Ages Past", "Amazing Grace", and "Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed." Try it!
    The Wesleys wrote "Jesus Christ the Saviour of the World" which is also 18 verses and takes about 10 minutes to sing. Wonderful hymn.