A Methodist Christian who is a lover of hymns. I have been searching for the inspiring stories behind great hymns.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
— Colossians 3:16 (RSV)
The Story Behind The Hymn: And Can It Be
'And Can Its Be' is a Methodist hymn written by the popular Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley (1707-1788). History has it that it was written shortly after his conversion on May 21, 1738, which was one Pentecost Sunday (Whitsunday), three days before the 'heart-warming' experience of his brother, Reverend John Wesley on May 24, 1738, at Aldersgate Street, London.
Charles heard a voice behind him while he was at the mechanic shop of a poor mechanic called John Bray, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and have faith, and thou shall be delivered of thy infirmity." Charles got up from bed and opening his Bible read the first verse of Isaiah 40, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God," and other verses in the Psalms.
The voice he heard sparked a deep, deep conviction in his heart in a way he has never experienced before. Not since he has been a Christian. This experience marked the onset of his true ministry as a revivalist with his elder brother John.
'And Can It Be' is a hymn that expresses Charles Wesley's full assurance of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
It is important to note that until this time of Charles Wesley's life, he only knew the Bible so well, but has not experienced the conviction of salvation in his heart. Same applies to his brother John Wesley, who "felt his heart strangely warmed" at Aldersgate Street in the evening of May 24, 1738. Exactly three days after Charles Wesley's experience. It was also noted that after Charles' conversion, he also penned the hymn: "Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin." Debates arose as to which one of the two hymns was written first. It was later concluded by scholars that "Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin" was written first before "And Can It Be That I Should Gain An Interest In The Saviour's Blood."
Despite this fact, the latter has been and remains one of the most remarkable hymns of history, expressing the joy of salvation in Christ Jesus. During the sacrament of baptism, especially in Methodist Church, this hymn is always sung amongst other hymns.
Further Analysis And Scriptural Connotations of The Hymn
As a Methodist, Charles Wesley is fond of using rhetorical questions in his poetic works, hence the use of the rhetorical questions in the first four lines of the hymn. The third line, " Died he for me, who caused his pain?", literally explains how we, the very cause of Jesus' death on the cross, are the very same people who are the beneficiaries. It's an expression of amazing love. God offered free redemption to all by the act of his son, even to those who caused his pain.
It is a mystery (as seen in stanza 2) for our Lord to die on our behalf. "The Immortal dies"- this is a mystery.
In the third stanza, Charles alludes Philippians 2:6-8 in lines 3 and 4, " Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adams helpless race."
Stanza four probably describes specifically Charles experience at John Bray's, " My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee." This also parallels how Peter was miraculously released from prison by an angel of the Lord in Acts chapter 12.
In the last stanza, Wesley expresses the justification we have in Christ by using the words of Romans 8, " There is therefore no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus." Christ offered us free grace to enter into his glorious Kingdom by believing in him. Bold we shall approach the eternal throne of God and claim the crown through Christ our own.
Lyrics Of The Hymn:
And Can It Be That I Should Gain An Interest in the Saviour's Blood—Methodist Hymnal No. 363; Ghana Methodist Hymnal, MHB 371.
1. And can it be that I should gain
An Interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
2. Tis Mystery all! The Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
Tis mercy all! Let the earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
3. He left His Father's throne above—
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adams helpless race.
Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me!
4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eyes diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dangeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off,my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
5. No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.
© 2020 Ernest Festus Awudey