Home Worship Planning History of Hymns Index of Wesley Texts in Modern Methodist Hymnals

Index of Wesley Texts in Modern Methodist Hymnals

The hymns of Charles Wesley have held a place of prominence in Methodism ever since "Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin," which was written by Charles upon his conversion in 1738. Both the quality and the quantity of his more than 6,500 hymns make Charles the most important hymn writer of the eighteenth century. The work of his brother, John, as hymn translator, compiler, editor, and distributor makes him the leading figure in English hymnody of that century. The sixty-four collections they published between 1738 and 1785 contain the substance of Wesleyan theology. Wesley hymns have always been important in Methodist devotion, instruction, proclamation, and public worship. Indeed, even today many would agree that it is the body of our Wesley hymnody that continues to give our denomination a sense of identity and unity during a period of theological, liturgical, and political diversity.

In a denomination so diverse, in which what we sing, say, and do in worship is so wide-ranging and varied, the question arises about whether the Wesley hymns can continue to unite us. There is a proliferation of hymns and songs that are used in worship, as well as the musical styles represented. Most major denominations — including our own — have issued supplemental hymn collections to make a variety of hymns and styles beyond those contained in their primary hymnals available to their congregations. As new and different songs are introduced into United Methodist worship, what is the impact upon the shared identity and unity that previously derived from our common use of the Wesley hymns? As new hymnals incorporate more and more new hymns and songs, will they contain fewer and fewer Wesley hymns?

One possibility for the future of hymnal publishing is that multiple denominations will simultaneously issue hymnals as joint releases, sharing the same body of hymns but with different liturgical resources. This is the case with the bilingual Korean-English hymnal, Come, Let Us Worship, jointly produced and released as official hymnals of The Presbyterian Church-USA and The United Methodist Church in 2001. Another possibility is that the Pan-Methodist denominations will move toward closer cooperation or even unity and may consider a common hymnal. The question for United Methodists in these and other scenarios is, "What shall we do with the Wesleys in our hymnal?"

The resources that follow result from a study of nine hymnals and collections:

Official Methodist Hymnals

Hymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church with Tunes. Cincinnati: Cranston & Stowe, and New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1878.

The Methodist Hymnal: Official Hymnal of The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. New York: Eaton & Mains, and Cincinnati: Jennings & Graham, 1905.

The Methodist Hymnal. New York, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Nashville: produced jointly by The Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and Methodist Protestant Church, 1935.

The Book of Hymns. Nashville: The Methodist Publishing House, 1966.

The United Methodist Hymnal. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

Other Collections

The Faith We Sing. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.

Wesley Hymn Book. London: A. Weekes & Co. Ltd., 1958.

Wesley Hymnbook. Kansas City: Lillenas Publishing Company, 1963.

Wesley Hymns. Kansas City: Lillenas Publishing Co., 1982.

The official Methodist hymnals are the past five hymnals approved by General Conference and are considered to be the hymnals of the modern era. The main distinguishing feature between the 1878 hymnal and its predecessors is that here, for the first time in Methodist hymnals, we find texts and tunes "wedded," voiced in four-part harmony, and printed on the same page. All modern hymnals have continued this format. With the addition of music to modern hymnals, the actual number of hymn texts, including Wesley texts, declined from previous hymnals that did not contain music. As new hymns are composed and are deemed worthy of being including in the church's hymnal, each new hymnal committee must wrestle with the questions of which hymns to remove, which to retain, and which new hymns to add. The body of Wesley hymns in each new hymnal but one (1966) has declined in number from the previous hymnal. The following table shows this trend.

Summary of 20th Century Hymnals






Charles Wesley Titles






John Wesley Titles






• Author






• Translator






• Alterer






Total Wesley Titles






The Faith We Sing, issued by Abingdon Press in 2000 as a joint project of The United Methodist Discipleship Ministries and The United Methodist Publishing House, was not authorized by the General Conference and is thus not an official denominational hymnal. It was conceived and marketed as a volume of hymns and songs in many styles from diverse nations and cultures, none of which are duplicated in the 1989 hymnal. It also included two Wesley hymns not appearing in any of the other five hymnals.

Two Wesley Texts Unique to The Faith We Sing (2000)

  • 2084, Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise
  • 2259, Victim Divine

An analysis of the five hymnals and The Faith We Sing reveals the following:

Statistical Summary

Total Wesley titles in all hymnals researched: 483
Titles in at least one of the five official hymnals: 381
Titles common to all five official hymnals: 35
Titles common to four of the five official hymnals: 17
Titles common to only the first four official hymnals: 14
Titles common to only the last four official hymnals: 1
Titles unique to the 1878 hymnal: 211
Titles unique to the 1905 hymnal: 10
Titles unique to the 1935 hymnal: 2
Titles unique to the 1966 hymnal: 7
Titles unique to the 1989 hymnal: 6
Titles unique to The Faith We Sing: 2

Perhaps we can consider the thirty-five titles common to the five official hymnals to be the core of the modern Wesley corpus.

Titles Common to All Five Official Hymnals

  1. A Charge to Keep I Have
  2. All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord
  3. And Are We Yet Alive
  4. And Can It Be That I Should Gain
  5. Blest Be the Dear Uniting Love
  6. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
  7. Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire
  8. Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above
  9. Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine
  10. Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown
  11. Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast
  12. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
  13. Depth of Mercy
  14. Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go
  15. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  16. How Can We Sinners Know
  17. I Want a Principle Within
  18. I'll Praise My Maker While I've Breath
  19. Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  20. Jesus, The Name High Over All
  21. Jesus, Thine All-Victorious Love
  22. Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me
  23. Jesus, United By Thy Grace
  24. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
  25. O Come and Dwell in Me
  26. O For a Heart to Praise My God
  27. O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  28. O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done
  29. O Thou Who Camest from Above
  30. Rejoice, The Lord Is King
  31. See How Great a Flame Aspires
  32. Soldiers of Christ, Arise
  33. Spirit of Faith, Come Down
  34. Thou Hidden Love of God
  35. Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose

If we add the titles common to four of the five hymnals, we have a total of just over fifty Wesley hymns as a corpus.

Titles Common to Four of the Five Official Hymnals

  1. Arise, My Soul, Arise
  2. Blow Ye The Trumpet, Blow
  3. Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee
  4. Give to the Winds Thy Fears
  5. How Happy Every Child of Grace
  6. Jesus, the Sinner's Friend to Thee
  7. Jesus, Thy Blood And Righteousness
  8. Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending
  9. Lord, In the Strength of Grace
  10. O Love Divine, How Sweet Thou Art
  11. O Thou, to Whose All-Searching Sight
  12. Servant of God, Well Done
  13. Sing to the Great Jehovah's Praise
  14. Sinners, Turn: Why Will You Die
  15. Talk with Us, Lord
  16. We Lift Our Hearts to Thee
  17. Ye Servants of God

The following table lists the titles of all Wesley hymns that have appeared in the last five Methodist hymnals. It also lists titles appearing in the three collections of Wesley hymns published by non-Methodists in 1958, 1963, and 1982. Page numbers indicate the most recent publication of that hymn. Click here for the table (PDF).

Compiled by Dean B. McIntyre ([email protected]), Director of Music Resources, The United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

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