History of Hymns: 'All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord'
By C. Michael Hawn
“All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord”
by Charles Wesley
The United Methodist Hymnal, 554
All praise to our redeeming Lord,
who joins us by his grace,
and bids us, each to each restored,
together seek his face.
He bids us build each other up;
and gathered into one,
to our high calling’s glorious hope
we hand in hand go on.
This hymn by Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was included in Hymns for Those that Seek and Those that have Redemption in the Blood of Jesus Christ (London, July 1747), a volume of 52 hymns published by William Strahan (1715-1785). Though issued anonymously, the majority of the hymns can be traced to Charles Wesley. Wesley scholar Frank Baker recorded the publication of sixteen editions of this little collection of Redemption Hymns in England and Ireland between 1747 and 1788, the last edition coinciding with the death of Charles and thus probably prepared by his older brother John Wesley (1703-1791) (Baker, 2011, p. 1). This collection also included the better-known hymns, “Love divine, all loves excelling” (No. 9) and “Come sinners to the gospel feast” (No. 50).
This hymn appears as No. 32 under the title “At Meeting of Friends” in three Common Meter Double (C.M.D.) stanzas. United Methodist Hymnal editor Carlton R. Young notes that the original four stanzas were divided into six Common Meter stanzas in some hymnals “probably because of the full supply of CM tunes and the shortage of CMD tunes” (Young, 1993, p. 198). Young also notes that the hymn was not included in the monumental Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists (1780) compiled by John Wesley until a later edition (1800-1801), where it appeared in six-4-line stanzas. Young notes that “early in the nineteenth century it was used by Wesleyan groups as a hymn of parting and fellowship” (Young, 1993, p. 198). “All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord” was designed to express friendship within smaller class or band meetings of society members (Dixon, n.p.). The familiar “And are we yet alive,” composed “For the Society on Meeting,” provides a corollary fellowship hymn for annual conference gatherings.
Christian friendship or fellowship was a primary topic for Charles Wesley. who devoted 55 hymns to this theme (Tyson, 2007, p. 117). Wesley scholar John R. Tyson notes:
These hymns give voice to Wesley’s understanding of friendship. He saw it as a good gift of God, given to persons to teach them about God’s love and to help them become partakers of the divine nature through love. Friendship, then, was an instrument of refreshment and spiritual improvement. For Wesley, the goal of Christian friendship was sanctification and heaven, in that order. Friends were supposed to “provoke one another to good works” and “draw each other out in love” (Tyson, 2007, pp. 117-118).
Though Charles often used first-person singular in his hymns, Wesley scholar Martin Groves makes a strong case against “the charge of individualism” leveled against Charles by some. Though the conversion experience may have seemed quite personal as declared in Wesley’s earlier hymns such as “And can it be that I should gain” (1739) and “O for a thousand tongues to sing” (1740), Christian friendship was a communal relationship promoted by the Wesleys in the formation of societies:
Methodism could not have happened were it not for the Wesleys’ commitment to the creation, maintenance, and organization of religious societies, societies which they both considered absolutely vital to the spiritual work to which all Christians are called. This is what Methodism was. To speak about Methodism is to speak about the Wesleys’ commitment to the social character of their spiritual organization. . . There is no doubt that Charles Wesley and Methodists . . . have prized and celebrated fellowship (Groves, 2007, p. 456).
Both Tyson and Groves cite “All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord” as the hymn that most illustrates Charles Wesley’s lyrical theology of Christian friendship. For the Wesleys, “there was no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. In other words, faith always includes a social dimension. One cannot be a solitary Christian” (“Our Wesleyan Heritage,” n.p.). Numerous biblical passages may be cited that affirm the Wesleyan concept of “social religion” (See Milgate and Wood, 2006, p. 442). Wesley scholar Diana Sanchez-Bushong specifically mentions I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 as biblical foundations for this hymn (Sanchez, 1989, p. 189). For example, I Corinthians 12:12 notes, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (KJV). Ephesians 4:3 states, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (NIV).
Each of the six stanzas (Common Meter version) reinforces the theme of “social religion” in some way:
“. . . together seek his face” (stanza 1)
“He bids us build each other up” (stanza 2)
“The gift which he on one bestows, / we all delight to prove” (stanza 3)
“. . . concentered all in Jesus’ name, / in perfect harmony” (stanza 4)
“We all partake the joy of one; the common peace we feel” (stanza 5)
The final stanza appropriately points the Christian community to heaven where the sanctification of the believer and the fulness of the Christian body is perfected:
And if our fellowship below in
Jesus be so sweet,
what height of rapture shall we know
when round his throne we meet!
This hymn is most closely, though not exclusively, identified with Methodists. This is not because other traditions do not share in its principles, but perhaps because the theological language is distinctly Wesleyan. For modern singers, some may find specific words or phrases to be curious; for example, “concentered” (stanza 4), “sensual minds” (stanza 5).
This hymn begs the question: “Does the language really describe the reality of the fledgling Methodist societies at the time of the Wesleys?” Indeed, not necessarily. John R. Tyson notes that in addition to theological differences on topics such as predestination and Christian perfection, “Rivalry in building up societies, establishing circuits, and preaching posts would also wear hard on the relationships between Charles Wesley and other Methodist leaders like George Whitefield and Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon” (Tyson, 2007, pp. 118-119). While this hymn may not have always been an existential description of reality, it was aspirational – a vision of what Christian community might become. As Groves states,
Fellowship was understood in an instrumental way from the perspective of individuals seeking salvation. That Charles believed that God desired all people to be finally incorporated into his kingdom of love, definitely added a proleptic element to the significance of fellowship in the religious societies (Groves, 2007, p. 457).
Numerous tunes are paired with this text. The United Methodist Hymnal uses ARMENIA by Sylvanus Billings Pond (1792-1871), an American composer of Sunday School songs. ARMENIA has appeared with this text in American Methodist hymnals since 1878. It first was published in 1836 in The Musical Miscellany, edited by singing-school master Thomas Hastings (1784-1872), where it was paired with another text (Young, 1993, p. 198). This author also recommends an unnamed syncopated and energetic setting composed in 2000 by Singaporean Methodist composer Swee Hong Lim (b. 1963), found in Charles Wesley at 300: All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, 2007), No. 16, and Global Praise 2: Songs for Worship and Witness (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, 2000), No. 84.
Sources and Further Reading
Frank Baker, “Editorial Introduction,” Redemption Hymns (1747), Randy L. Maddox, ed.: https://divinity.duke.edu/sites/divinity.duke.edu/files/documents/cswt/44_Redemption_Hymns_%281747%29.pdf. Accessed November 14, 2019.
Neil Dixon, “All praise to our redeeming Lord,” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press, accessed November 17, 2019, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/a/all-praise-to-our-redeeming-lord.
Martin Groves, “Charles Wesley’s Spirituality,” in Charles Wesley Life, Literature & Legacy, Kenneth G. C. Newport and Ted A. Campbell, eds. (Werrington Peterbourgh: Epworth, 2007), 446-464.
Wesley Milgate and D’Arcy Wood, A Companion to Together in Song: The Australian Hymn Book II (Sydney: The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd, 2007).
“Our Wesleyan Heritage,” The People of the United Methodist Church: What We Believe, http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage. Accessed 16 November 2019.
Diana Sanchez (-Bushong), The Hymns of The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989).
John R. Tyson, Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007).
Carlton R. Young, Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993).
C. Michael Hawn, D.M.A., F.H.S., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Adjunct Professor, and Director, Doctor of Pastoral Music Program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.