Sunday, February 26, 2006

And Can It Be?

John Wesley's bother, Charles Wesley wrote over 9000 hymns. He wrote his very first hymn just three days after he was saved! And from that point forward he averaged writing one hymn every two days for the rest of his life. What a prodigious hymn writer. And what great theological depth to the lyrics of his songs. I know there are great worship choruses in the church today. But give me a Wesley hymn any day over one of the choruses that I sang this morning in church!

It has been said concerning "And Can It Be," that it was "a rousing testimony to the wonder and power of God to save helpless sinners in bondage to sin. All Calvinists sing it with gratitude to God for this brother's wonderful gift of expression and sensitivity to the reality of God's sovereignty in releasing us from the bondage to our sin nature."

That's a great quote. It is from R. K. McGregor Wright, a modern Calvinist author and theologian. Wright is the author of such books as "No Place for Soveriegnty" and "Absolute Necessity of Sound Doctrine". I have read excerpts from both of these books and I recommend them.

Here are some of the lyrics from the great hymn "And Can It Be?":

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

The imagery of "chains" and "prison" depict the bondage of sin. We cannot save ourselves. Nor in our sinful condition do we have any desire for salvation. In fact, we do not even realize that we are in bondage many times.

Then Charles Wesley describes the (prevenient) grace through which the sinful man is awakened. But even though his dungeon "flamed with light", at this point in the conversion process, although he was awakened, he was still imprisoned.

Of course the prisoner truly desires to break loose from sin, and begins to struggle with it. But though he tries his hardest and determines with all his might he cannot conquer; sin is mightier than he is. (It is important to note here that although sin is mightier than the poor prisoner, it is not mightier than our God.) The Apostle Paul understood this long before the Wesley's when he said in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

Who shall deliver us from the bondage of sin? Jesus Christ's shed blood and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! That's who!


  1. great post. Great hymn!

  2. Anonymous3:43 PM

    calvin is dead, gone, judged and if he was chosen in heaven.....right??!!

  3. Anonymous,

    I am not sure I understand your point. All of those saints from the Reformation and Post-Reformation era are gone. Such a shame, as they have given us a wealth of writings and thoughts.


  4. "Then Charles Wesley describes the (prevenient) grace through which the sinful man is awakened. But even though his dungeon "flamed with light", at this point in the conversion process, although he was awakened, he was still imprisoned."

    Reading this reminded me of how respectful Wesleyan theology and practice is to the whole idea of Christian formation as "process" or "journey."

  5. Hi Brother Kevin,

    Thank you for loving Singapore! I would love to meet up with you & your family when your next visit to Singapore materialize:-)

    I hope the words of our living God Christ Jesus has touched my hearts like many others, I just love to relate His love for me & you!

    May the Lord Bless you & Keep you! Have a good week ahead & keep coming back to my blog ya haha:-)

    I am linking up your 'blog' with mine, hope you do not mind! Well written Post!

  6. could you and your blessed readers address this line from you recent post: Nor in our sinful condition do we have any desire for salvation.

    I agree with the next part where you say that some who are locked in this prison of sin don't even know they are in bondage...but it seems to me some "sinners" do desire salvation of some type, and unless they look for it in the right place, unless they are guided in the right direction, they get lost deeper because of what they try to use to get saved. does that make any sense?

  7. Maryellen,

    I think what I was trying to say there was that often we are "blissfully ignorant" in our sinful condition. Now, that is not always the case. Sometimes, due to the Holy Spirit's tugging at our hearts we are miserable until we seek forgiveness and let go of our selfish desire to be the lord of our own lives.

    I believe it is also true that many times we are miserable because of where we are looking to "find salvation." It is not at the bottom of a bottle of alcohol, it is not in the accumulation of things and it is certainly not by any works of merit that I may strive to achieve! It is all about being led by God's Grace to a point of sweet release of my will to His Will.

    Does this help explain what I was trying to say in my post? What do some of the rest of you folks think?

    Thanks for the question Maryellen. I trust things are going well for you and that you are sensing the Holy Spirit comforting you through these difficult days on the reservation and at school.


  8. And Can It Be is one of my favorites! I find Wesley's style to be an ispiration when I write poetry, it is often in that hymn style that I write, but the result is not quite as eloquent or articulate as Wesley's. There is a great thing though in the theological depth of musical worship that I appreciate, it helps me focus more on who God is and His attributes that make him so great, instead of just singing "God is Great" fifty-eleven times.

  9. Preach it, brother!