History of Hymns: 'Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise'
By Anneli Loepp Thiessen
“Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise”
by Charles Wesley
The Faith We Sing, 2084
Come, let us with our Lord arise,
our Lord, who made both earth and skies:
who died to save the world he made,
and rose triumphant from the dead;
he rose, the Prince of life and peace,
and stamped the day for ever his.
Hymnal collections have long included hymns for children as material for worship. Historically, a hymnal might incude a section called “Hymns for Children.” More recent collections have tended to intersperse hymns for children throughout the hymnal. These hymns use language that connects children to their faith: vibrant images, concrete concepts, and simple phrases. Their theological accessibility makes them widely loved by all ages, as they are easy to grasp conceptually, while speaking comforting truths. Besides their accessibility, hymns for children also outline the most vital aspects of worship, offering a foundation for faith.
“Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise” is a hymn for children written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), first published in Hymns for Children (1763). In the preface to a later edition of this collection, John Wesley wrote that these hymns are “[...] expressed in such plain and easy language as even children may understand.” John’s assertion that the language used is accessible to children may come as a surprise to contemporary readers, with even many adults unable to fully grasp the language used in the hymn. Although written hundreds of years ago, Charles Wesley’s writing holds the same values as hymns for children written today.
The 1763 collection was not the first foray into children’s hymns by the Wesley brothers. John included seven of his brother’s hymns in Hymns for Children (1742), followed by another collection of the same title in 1747. The 100 hymns of the 1763 edition are devoted to the hymns of Charles Wesley, most of which are original to this publication, only six selected from other earlier sources. The 1763 edition was intended as a companion volume to John Wesley’s Instructions for Children (1763), but “its straightforward yet theologically rich language makes it suitable for people of all ages” (Dixon, Canterbury Dictionary, n.p.).
Though never reaching the extreme popularity and continuing influence on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean of Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (1715) by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), Hymns for Children (1763) went through four editions within two decades (Notes by Baker in Wesley, 1763, p. 1). Interestingly, John Wesley compared his approach to children with that of Isaac Watts in his preface to the 1790 edition to Hymns for Children:
There are two ways of writing or speaking to children: the one is, to let ourselves down to them; the other, to lift them up to us. Dr Watts has wrote on the former way, and has succeeded admirably well, speaking to children as children, and leaving them as he found them. The following hymns are written on the other plan: they contain strong and manly sense, yet expressed in such plain and easy language as even children may understand. But when they do understand them, they will be children no longer, only in years and in stature (Wesley, 1787, p. 1).
This hymn first appeared as Hymn 61 under the title “For the Lord’s Day,” in four six-line stanzas. The Faith We Sing includes the first three stanzas. The final fourth stanza follows. While this stanza is an expression of praise, lines 4 and 5 also address behavioral expectations:
Honor and praise to Jesus pay
throughout his consecrated day,
be all in Jesu’s praise employed,
nor leave a single moment void,
with utmost care the time improve,
and only breathe his praise and love. (Wesley, 1763, p. 55)
Wesley portrays theological concepts using concrete language. Stanza 1 begins with a favorite incipit (first words) and gentle invitation often used by Charles— “Come, let us . . .” (See “Come, let us join our friends above,” “Come, let us join in one accord,” and “Come, let us use the grace divine”). This stanza provides a thorough overview of the biblical narrative, beginning with creation, and ending with Jesus’ death and resurrection, grounding the singer in the essential aspects of the Christian story. Stanza 2 speaks to God’s enduring love and power. It opens by quoting Psalm 118:24 (“This is the day that the Lord has made”), and so calls the worshiper into unity with God (“filled with all the life of God”). Wesley encourages the worshiper to see God’s love and feel God’s power while seeking to commune with God—a message that is foundational for children or adults. The final stanza takes a more serious tone, requesting that the worshiper solemnly approach the throne, and with meekness hear the gospel. It ends with a call to praise: “Our joyful hearts and voices raise, / and fill his courts with songs of praise.”
The three stanzas may be summarized as telling the story, observing God’s love, and coming near to God, or word, action, and worship. These three key elements are foundational to Christian theology and are offered here as lessons for young and old. In addition to The Faith We Sing (2001), the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985), and The Worshiping Church (1990) in the United States, the hymn appears in the Anglican Church of Canada’s Common Praise (1998) and the Australian Together in Song (1999) as well as twenty other hymnals according to Hymnary.org. Because of the commonly used poetic meter (188.8.131.52.8.8), the text works with a variety of tunes. The Faith We Sing uses the traditional and joyful SUSSEX CAROL, a melody with Christmas associations made popular by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) in his well-known Fantasia on Christmas Carols (1912).
We remember Charles Wesley (1707–1788) as one of the greatest hymn writers in history, and his work has been foundational to the Methodist church. Scholars credit him with 9,000 hymns and poems, including beloved hymns such as “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” His passion for sharing his faith encouraged him to write hymns that speak to many different needs, including many children’s hymns that are beloved today.
Neil Dixon, “Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise,” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology.
Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/c/come,-let-us-with-our-lord-arise. (Accessed 20 May 2020).
John Wesley, Hymns for Children (1763), ed. Frank Baker. See https://divinity.duke.edu/sites/divinity.duke.edu/files/documents/cswt/65_Hymns_for_Children_%281763%29_mod.pdf (accessed 20 May 2020).
_____, Hymns for Children (1787), ed. Frank Baker. See https://divinity.duke.edu/sites/divinity.duke.edu/files/documents/cswt/34_Hymns_for_Children_%281787%29_mod.pdf (accessed 20 May 2020).
Anneli Loepp Thiessen is a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa, researching gender representation in contemporary worship music. She received a Bachelor of Music degree from Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg, Manitoba), a Master of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Ottawa, and she was awarded the Associate Diploma (ARCT) in Piano Performance (Royal Conservatory of Music). She holds a graduate diploma in Arts Management (Queens University), and she is a Yamaha Fellow at the Eastman Leadership Academy. Anneli is a member of the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee for the forthcoming Mennonite hymnal Voices Together (September 2020). She is a member of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.