Music Notes for the First Sunday of Lent — February 18, 2024

Jesus, Lover of My Soul – Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788) / Music: Joseph Parry (1841-1903)

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Written by Charles Wesley in 1738, this Sunday’s offertory hymn in church, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, was originally published in 1740 under the title “In Temptation.” Charles was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family, and perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn-writer of all ages. This hymn has as its theme the sufficiency of Christ to give comfort, power, and grace in any circumstance. It is a plea that Jesus will provide sanctuary to the tempted (st. 1), because there is no other refuge (st. 2). Christ is declared to be the sole desire of the Christian, who is undeserving (st. 3), while Christ’s grace is declared sufficient to cleanse the Christian from all his vile sins (st. 4). Charles’ brother John did not publish it in his later hymnals, perhaps because its language was considered too pietistic and too intimate for public worship, concerns which other hymnal editors shared. Nevertheless, it has survived and remains well-known and loved.

There are two tunes that are commonly associated with this text. One is the Welsh tune “Aberystwyth” by Joseph Parry, written in 1876 and named after the coastal town in which he was living at the time. This is the tune with which this hymn is paired in both of our hymnals, Common Praise and The New English Hymnal, although the latter also includes the tune “Hollingside”. Parry published “Aberystwyth” in Ail Llyfr Tonau ac Emynau (The Second Book of Tunes and Hymns) in 1879. It is paired with many different texts, but Jesus, Lover of My Soul is by far the most frequent.

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.

Gerald Harder