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Hymns Review: O Thou Who Camest from Above

I am a Methodist from Ghana who love singing hymns so much. Hymns are one of the most powerful ways of expressing God's love.


A Brief History of Hymns

For over 2000 years, Christians have been using music (songs) as a way of worshipping and praising God. The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians: "Address one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."

The word "hymn" comes from the Greek word hymnos which means "a song of praise." Hymns were written in honor of God. Hymnody (the singing or composition of hymns) has evolved and changed over the centuries and has been affected by new thinking and developing new religious beliefs.

In the sixteenth century, the church had greater exposure to the use of hymns in worship. This owes to the reformative work of the influential German theologian and reformer, Martin Luther, who began to exhort the people to sing together in congregations.

In England, the nonconformist Minister, Isaac Watts (1674-1748) also began a transformation of congregational singing. Watts was, thus described as "the liberator of English Hymnody" as his hymns inspires people to sing from the heart and with great faith and understanding, rather than simply singing from the Old Testament Psalms and canticles.

During that same period, another significant awakening influenced hymnody—the Methodist Movement—led by John Wesley and especially his brother Charles Wesley, who through simple rhythms and singable melodies helped congregational singing.

Today, the church is "richer" in singing than ever before—old texts have been refreshed by new tunes, a number of contemporary hymns have sprung up, and a variety of modern musical instruments have been developed to make hymn singing more melodious and inspirational.

A Portrait of Charles Wesley, M.A

Portrait by John Russell

Portrait by John Russell

About the Wesley Brothers

John and Charles Wesley were born on June 17, 1703 and December 18, 1707 respectively at Epworth Rectory, England to Samuel and Susana Wesley. They were the 15th and the 18th borns to their parents respectively. Today, I would focus more on Charles Wesley, since he is the main subject of discussion. In 1716, Charles Wesley went to Westminster School and got elected as King's Scholar and attended the school freely. In 1726, Charles was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729 and became a college tutor. His religious impressions also deepened during this time. In that same year (1729), Charles Wesley started to meet with several like-minded students to pray, study and observe a series of daily disciplines together. They invited John Wesley to join them, and he later became their mentor and leader. The group was mockingly called the "Bible Moths," "Bible Bigots," "Sacramentarians," "Methodists," "Holy Club," or " Enthusiasts" by other students. The name "Holy Club" remained , and it soon grew to about twenty-five members. Among the original members was George Whitefield and many others.

While the two brothers directed a movement towards spiritual renewal within the church of England in the eighteenth century, John Wesley expressed his understanding of the Christian faith chiefly through sermons and other prose writing. Charles, on the other hand, blended belief and praise to create a unique lyrical theology of God's love. Both emphasized the value of a life reclaimed by the spirit and rooted in God's grace experienced through Jesus Christ. They believed that the Christian life is a pilgrimage of grace upon grace.

Whether preached or sung, the spiritual discoveries of the Wesley brothers and their Methodist fellows revived the church of their time.

A Portrait of Rev. John Wesley

George Romney (1789)

George Romney (1789)

Our Hymn for Today: O Thou Who Camest from Above

This hymn was written and published by Charles Wesley, one of the greatest hymnists in history (known to have written over 6500 hymns in his lifetime) in 1762 in Short Hymns on Selected Passages of the Holy Scriptures. He later edited it in 1780 for use by the People Called Methodists. Although this hymn appears in many collections, there were many criticisms about the first two lines of the second stanza:

There let it for thy glory burn,

With inextinguishable blaze

Critics argued that "inextinguishable" is too long a word to be used in poetry and that words with five syllables must be used in hymns sparingly. This, therefore, has limited it's appearance in many collections. John Wesley edited it to read, "With ever bright undying blaze." However, many collections still use the original work, for instance, the Methodist Church Ghana, and Nigeria.

This hymn can be traced to the words of Leviticus 6:13, " The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar, it shall never go out." This literally speaks of the work of Holy Spirit in the believer. With humble prayer and fervent praise, the Holy Spirit goes and returns to it source in our hearts.

The tune, HEREFOR, was composed by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), his brother. Samuel was a famous performer and composer of hymn tunes, works for organ and anthems.

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Do you sing hymns? Or better still do you love it? I do because it directly unleashes God's presence in my life. When you sing hymns from your heart and with understanding, something deep inside of you changes. Our souls are refreshed and our minds renewed

— Ernest Festus Awudey

Lyrics of the Hymn—O Thou Who Camest from Above

1. O Thou who camest from above

The pure celestial fire to impart,

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart.

2. There let it for Thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze;

And trembling to its source return,

With humble prayer and fervent praise.

3. Jesus confirm my heart's desire

To work, and speak, and think for Thee;

Still let me guard the holy fire,

And still stir up Thy gift in me.

4. Ready for all Thy perfect will,

My acts of faith and love repeat,

Till death Thy endless mercies seal,

And make the sacrifice complete.

Listen To This powerful Hymn Below


© 2020 Ernest Festus Awudey


Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on August 13, 2020:

Thanks for your comment Celestine.

Celestine on August 13, 2020:

Thanks for sharing the inspiring story behind this powerful Methodist hymn

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 05, 2020:

Looking forward to same.

Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on August 05, 2020:

Next on Hymns review: And can it be that I should gain an interest in the saviour's blood... coming up soon

Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on July 31, 2020:

Thanks Esenam and Ese for your comments...So encouraging.

Ese on July 31, 2020:

The "inextinguishable" used in stanza two is always used in Ghana. Thanks for sharing though. This is really educative.

Esenam on July 29, 2020:

Hello Ernest Festus, this is really inspiring. I never knew the story behind this great hymn of Charles Wesley. Thank you for sharing

Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on July 28, 2020:

Indeed, the story of the Wesleyans is such an inspiring one... Thanks Miss Pamela

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 28, 2020:

This is such an interesting article about the origins of some hymns and about the Wesley brothers. I did not know about these origins.This is a very good article.

Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on July 27, 2020:

Thanks MsDora

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 27, 2020:

Thanks for the interesting information on the hymns and their creators. I also listened to the song. The organ music is nostalgic. Good article!

Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on July 26, 2020:

Oh that's wonderful! Mr Dierker, now you know it all.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 26, 2020:

Very interesting. I like 'em all. I was not aware of Wesley being so involved.

Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on July 25, 2020:

Thanks very much for yours Miebakagh....God bless you for the inspiring comment.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on July 25, 2020:

Hi Festus, thanks for the read. But no matter how deeply men of God were devoted to writing a song, hymn, and other melodies, I consider the "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" of the Bible of excellent value. Really, those in the Bible were inspiations of the Holy Spirit. The quote from Colosians was not songs from songs of praise. Yes, I still sing and worship from those. They are good. "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine." Thanks again.

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