I’m reading Fred Sanders’ Wesley on the Christian Life with great interest. This is the third volume in this seriesI’ve read and I found the other two very helpful. Additionally I know less about Wesley than the subject of the previous two volumes read, Luther & Calvin.
Of course, John’s brother Charles was a great (arguably second only to Isaac Watts in the English language) hymn writer. Sanders says the following regarding Charles’ hymns:
“Charles Wesley seems to have memorised the Bible and to have had it always on the tip of his tongue. A really dense Wesley hymn can somehow manage to fit three Scripture references in two lines. It zips along without clutter, but if you stop to unpack how much is being said, suggested, and alluded to, it takes a full page of exposition that exhausts the reader but not the hymn.” (Sanders, Wesley on the Christian Life, pg. 92.)
John Wesley penned the following instructions regarding congregational singing:
Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.
Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.