The famous Wesley brothers, John and Charles, both entered ministry soon after they graduated from Oxford University. They were exposed to the power of Christian singing on a boat trip from England to the United States when they heard a group of Moravian Christians praising God in song. When they returned to England, they returned hymn writers.
John wrote hymns occasionally, but eventually his preaching ministry took precedence. Charles, however, discovered a natural talent for writing verse and became prolific at the practice. It is said that he wrote his first hymn within a day or two of his conversion and dictated his final hymn to his wife from his deathbed. In 1740, he wrote one of his most intimate and enduring hymns: “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”
There is no particularly moving story behind this hymn, and it may appear to be one of ten thousand hymns of praise. In its original publication, however, it was categorised as a song to be sung “in temptation.” Perhaps Charles wrote this song in the midst of particular temptation. Regardless, he wrote it to help Christians combat temptation.
The Christian life is one of fighting temptation. God’s grace in the gospel trains Christians to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). While Christianity is a lifelong exercise of repentance, it is at the same time a lifelong resistance of temptation. We ever pursue more effective strategies of combating temptation. We pursue accountability with other Christians. We memorise Scripture pertinent to particular sins and temptations. We train ourselves to recognise our proclivity to certain sins and discipline ourselves to flee temptation when it arises. We keep short accounts with sin and repent when we are made aware of our uncleanness. But Charles write this song to encourage another weapon that we frequently ignore: meditating on Christ’s love for us.
The writer to the Hebrews hinted at this when he wrote,
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
The implication of these verses plays itself out in Charles’s song. Hebrews tells us that Christ took on full humanity so that “he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He can help us in our temptation because he suffered when tempted “so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” Out of love, Jesus submitted to the full weight of temptation so that he might be a sympathetic high priest when we are tempted—and when we cave to temptation and sin. Focusing on his great love for us therefore helps us in our hour of temptation.
In temptation, therefore, we can learn to sing, “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.” While the tempest of temptation rages, we can ask, “Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past.” As we realise that we have no other refuge but that our helpless soul hangs on him, we can plead, “Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.” We can rest his “plenteous grace” to cover all our sin and therefore pray, “Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.”
In your temptation today, will you remember Christ’s great love for you? Will you fly to his bosom for refuge in the raging tempest of temptation? Stay your trust and find your help in him and allow him to cover your defenceless head with the shadow of his wing.