Monday, February 27, 2012

Charles Wesley, County Down and the Ulster Covenant

(story is quoted from this website)

"...Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was conducting one of his many open-air meetings, this one near Killyleagh, (Northern) Ireland. During the course of his preaching, a number of persons who took exception to his views assaulted him. Unable to withstand the mob, Wesley fled for his life.

He took refuge in a farmhouse nearby. Jane Lowrie Moore*, a kind-hearted wife of a farmer, hid the panting evangelist in the milk house. She was barely in time, because at that moment some of Wesley’s assailants rushed up. Mrs. Moore tried to divert their attention by preparing refreshments. Fearful that they might search the premises and discover the harried evangelist, she went to the milk house on the pretext of getting a cold drink for her visitors.

Quickly, she bade him, get through the rear window, and hide under the hedge. He clambered through the window and found a little brook flowing beside the hedge, forming a pool with overhanging branches that afforded a pleasant and safe retreat. While waiting for the vindictive Irishmen to give up the search and leave, Wesley pulled a pencil and paper from his pocket and wrote out the immortal hymn, Jesus, Lover of My Soul.

Dr. George Duffield**, author of Stand up for Jesus, another of our famous songs, once said of Wesley’s hymn, If there is anything in Christian experience of joy and sorrow, of affliction and prosperity, of life and death—that hymn truly is the hymn of the ages..."

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Jesus Lover of My Soul was one of the hymns associated with the Ulster Covenant of 1912 and was printed on the Ulster Day Service Sheet which was produced for the many church services held on the morning of 28 September 1912. I wonder if its Ulster origin is partly why it was chosen? It is also said that the Royal Welsh Fusiliers sang this as they went 'over the top' at Mametz Wood in World War One. The best-known tune for it is called Hollingsby, but with a bit of work it can be made to fit 'My Heart is like a Red Red Rose', Robert Burns' famous love song. One to be tried out this year I think.

Here it is to a new tune:

* The hymnwriter Robert Lowry's parents were said to have come from near Killyleagh. Were they related to Jane Lowrie Moore?
** Duffield was also of Ulster descent.