Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Music: Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Tune name: ABERYSTWYTH
Originally titled ”On Temptation” — since sin and temptation are the foes from which the believer is seeking refuge — this hymn was first published in 1740, about two years after Charles Wesley’s conversion experience.
The first word of Wesley’s original text, “Jesus,” was originally (and still in some hymnals) rendered “Jesu,” which is a Latinised spelling of the Greek vocative, reflecting the fact that Jesus is being addressed in the opening sentence.
The words of the opening lines were sometimes regarded as too intimate for public worship, so, in the nineteenth century, some hymnal editors altered the text to describe the reality of God’s love less vividly. English statesman W. E. Gladstone notably took offense at Wesley’s presumption that he and all the singers of his hymn should wish to be so familiar with our Lord. “St. John undoubtedly lay on the bosom of his Lord,” he observed. “But he alone; we are all not all St. John’s.” True, but nor are we all possessors of English reserve.
This hymn is presented in our Hymnal with two different tunes, but it is most commonly sung to the Welsh tune ABERYSTWYTH. Below is a robust presentation of this hymn set for men’s voices by a the Treorchy Male Choir, demonstrating the legendary richness of Welsh singing.