O FOR a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!
2 My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of thy name.
3 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.
4 He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.
5 He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
The humble poor believe.
6 Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
This fine hymn has stood at the head of the Wesleyan Hymn Book since 1779, and has led the procession in the official book of the Methodist Episcopal Church from near its organization, in 1784. Its history is very interesting.
The author’s title was: “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion.” It was written in 1739 to celebrate the first anniversary of his spiritual birth, and was published in Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740.
Charles Wesley gives an account of his conversion in his Journal. He says:
“Sunday, May 21, 1738. I waked in expectation of His coming. At nine my brother and some friends came and sang a hymn to the Holy Ghost. My comfort and hope were hereby increased. In about half an hour they went. I betook myself to prayer, the substance as follows: ‘O Jesus, thou hast said, “I will come unto you;” thou hast said, “I will send the Comforter unto you;” thou hast said, “My Father and I will come unto you, and make our abode with you.” Thou art God, who canst not lie. I wholly rely upon thy most true promise: accomplish it in thy time and manner.’ … Still I felt a violent opposition and reluctance to believe, yet still the Spirit of God strove with my own and the evil spirit till by degrees he chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced, I knew not how nor when, and immediately fell to intercession.”
The anniversary poem contained eighteen stanzas, beginning:
Glory to God, and praise, and love
Be ever, ever given.
The hymn is composed of verses 7 to 12, unaltered except for a single word. The author wrote the second line “My dear Redeemer’s praise.” This was changed by John Wesley to “My great Redeemer’s praise.”
The rapture and extravagance of the first verse are explained by the preceding stanzas, especially verses 2 and 5:
2 On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul he shone,
And filled it with repose.
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.
Charles S. Nutter and Wilbur F. Tillett, The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church: An Annotated Edition of the Methodist Hymnal, vol. 1 (New York; Cincinnati; Nashville: Eaton & Mains; Jennings & Graham; Smith & Lamar, 1911), 1.