Jesus, Lover of My Soul

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Charles Wesley, 1740
“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” was written by the great hymnist Charles Wesley, who wrote over 8,000 hymns. His brother John Wesley is known as the father of Methodism.

This hymn was written shortly after Wesley’s conversion in 1738. Many have tried to tie this hymn’s inspiration to an event in Wesley’s life, specifically a near stormy shipwreak that he and his brother experienced on a passage back from America. However, despite the sea imagry (“waters roll,” “tempest”) this connection is only speculation. However, what is not speculation is the enduring success of this very much loved – and possibly Wesley’s best – hymn.

A simple hymn history for children can be found in Osbeck’s Amazing Grace: Illustrated Stories of Favorite Hymns. Section available online.

ABERYSTWYTH, Joseph Parry, 1879
Parry was a Welsh composer and musician who immigrated to the United States at the age of 13. It was there that in 1867 Parry became a Freemason. He returned to Great Britain where he studied music and became a music professor at the University of Wales, where he also participated as organist at the masonic lodge at Aberystwyth. He went on to hold other academic positions and wrote operas, oratorios, cantatas and other pieces in addition to hymn tunes.

The intimate nature of this hymn, specifically addressing Jesus as “lover,” apparently made contemporaries of Wesley uncomfortable.

Look for imagery throughout the hymn and in particular to describe Jesus, “lover,” “healer,” fountain,” “pilot.” For children, this would be a good hymn to ask them to draw a picture while listening (picture narration).

John and Charles Wesley were sent to America as ministers of the Church of England prior to what they would call their true conversions to Christ. They were posted as missionaries in Georgia but left less than two years later believing their ministries had failed.

Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles, is also a well-known Christian figure. Despite many trials, her strong faith persisted. A story I remember from childhood was is that of her prayer apron. With 10 surviving children (19 total children born to her), in order to find time alone with the Lord she would pull her apron over her head to pray. When the apron was over her head her children knew not to disturb her.

Some of Charles Wesley’s other well known hymns include:

  • And Can It Be That I Should Gain 
  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
  • Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
  • Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  • Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

The Lutheran Hymnal #345 (However, it is set to the tune MARTYN, not ABERYSTWYTH.)

Hawn, C. Michael. “History of Hymns: ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul.’” Discipleship Ministries. The United Methodist Church. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.
Joesph Parry.” CyberHymnal. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.
Joesph Parry.” Web. 1 Aug. 2016.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” Amazing Grace: Illustrated Stories of Favorite Hymns.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications. 1999. Pages 44-45. Google Books Web. 1 Aug. 2016.

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