It’s not surprising that a Methodist, a creature of obedience and godly habits, should turn out so many hymns. Charles Wesley’s adherence to a systematic lifestyle of worship and study earned him the name ‘Methodist’ in 1729. Like a disciplined soldier, following the orders of his commander, Wesley’s life-song mirrors what we can sing in his composition ‘Soldiers of Christ, Arise’. The song Wesley has given us was written in 1749. It’s said that Wesley wrote it with the original title “The Whole Armor of God”, and used it to confirm new converts. The song’s martial message is impossible to miss. Charles and his brother John, as notable a preacher as Charles was a hymn-writer, are jointly considered the founders of the Methodist movement, one which its followers joined in spite of its accompanying danger. Beginning in 1739, Methodists routinely experienced persecution because its ministers preached without being formally ordained or licensed by the Anglican Church. Many people were stoned, beaten, or threatened, and their homes vandalized. After a decade of this, Charles Wesley’s song shows how he must have steeled himself for the onslaught. Its 24 verses tell us the fight we’re in is lengthy, even exhausting (see them all in the link I’ve listed below).
How do I endure injustice? Do I arise and face my tormentors with resolve, with spiritual confidence in God’s providence? I must admit, I gripe too often. I’d rather not have troubles, and when I do, I have lots of venom to deliver to the nearest person, even if its an innocent bystander. I seem to need to vent my spleen. Wesley’s song reminds me that I need to be strong, that my faith is not about having an easy time. If I’m feeling vulnerable, and I yell ‘Ouch!’ a lot, maybe I need to reexamine my toolkit, the things God has given me for my protection. Is your armor on? Is God’s panoply at your disposal, through prayer and study? Do you lean on your fellow soldiers for advice and support? All these are yours and mine. I think I’ll go re-read Ephesians 6, and remind myself what a soldier should be doing…
Charles Wesely’s journal: http://wesley.nnu.edu/charles_wesley/journal/index.htm
All 24 verses of ‘Soldiers of Christ, Arise’ are at the following website: http://nethymnal.org/htm/s/o/soldiers.htm
brief biographies of Charles and John Wesely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Wesley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wesley
longer biographies: http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biorpcwesley.html
information about the song: http://songsandhymns.org/hymns/detail/soldiers-of-christ-arise
“The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J. and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2006.