Arise, My Soul, Arise

2 Sep

I have been meditating on this Charles Wesley hymn for over a week.  It is said that it is his most well-known hymn, although I think in our particular circle “And Can It Be?” is more famous.

Here are the words to the entire hymn:

“Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.”

While there is some controversy about the Biblical reference that Wesley used (Isaiah 49:16, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”), since no one is quite sure whose names are graven on the palms of God the Father, there is absolutely no controversy about whose names are written on Jesus’ nail-pierced hands.  His hands will be nail-pierced for eternity.  And they bear our names–He bears the names of the redeemed in those nailprints.  He bought us with them.

In the way that Jesus is so often presented as the paradoxical fulfillment of two prophecies at once (the Lion and the Lamb, the Good Shepherd and the Lamb, the High Priest and the sacrificial Lamb, the Judge and the Advocate . . .), so I believe the third verse poetically personifies His bleeding wounds to use them as a symbol–five parts of the Saviour representing the entire Saviour.  Even the most mystical among us knows that wounds don’t have voices to plead.  But they are eloquent when they are held up in the palms of the Saviour as He pleads His advocacy for us.  And that is how I believe Wesley used the imagery of this verse.  Especially as the fourth verse repeats that theme.

It would be nice to find an explanation of what Wesley was thinking as he wrote the hymn but, alas, I don’t think that exists.  At least I don’t find any preliminary strands leading in that direction.

Great hymn!  Great meditation.

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One Response to “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

  1. Heidi Williams November 10, 2015 at 10:41 AM #

    Wow, this is awesome! Have just “scratched” the surface and read a few of the articles you have written or posted. Will definitely spend lots of time reading. Thank you.

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