Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

(Hail, Thou Long Expected Jesus)

(Come, O Long Expected Jesus)

 

By Charles Wesley 1744

 

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Langdale https://youtu.be/MK_IbPiZNTk
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Rex Gloriae https://youtu.be/nigeA94Hilw
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Carlton https://youtu.be/qTKfPqz8tW0
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Trust https://youtu.be/s-UtaW3BK4c
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus O Durchbrechen https://youtu.be/gyUUhwhQUCQ
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Dallas https://youtu.be/w8n44sk6iJ4
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Austrian Hymn https://youtu.be/neG4febO-p0
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Stockwell https://youtu.be/8ycf4hVi9oQ
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Wilson https://youtu.be/syAwu3hoFJQ
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Gotha https://youtu.be/gk44V8Vnpe8
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Lux Eoi https://youtu.be/yd5RbdEcGcY
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Hyfrydol http://youtu.be/eH_ejUqZpgs
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Jefferson http://youtu.be/X2vU5mS2WbM
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Cross of Jesus https://youtu.be/1GYizuUTC48
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Halton Holgate https://youtu.be/BoIHRkqVwUc
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Nassau – alt https://youtu.be/jhz4fX1hA9I
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Herrnhut https://youtu.be/jMwIPFfehWU
Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus Stuttgart http://youtu.be/z_YA9GZB76I
Hail! Thou Long Expected Jesus Harwell https://youtu.be/L4G70LhPzes
Hail! Thou Long Expected Jesus St Oswald https://youtu.be/XQnZiTSZk24
Come, O Long Expected Jesus St Hillary https://youtu.be/lNugXQMNThY
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus Greenville https://youtu.be/ 9ZwwGaAdOOU

 

  1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,

born to set thy people free;

from our fears and sins release us,

let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

hope of all the earth thou art;

dear desire of every nation,

joy of every longing heart.

  1. Born thy people to deliver,

born a child and yet a King,

born to reign in us forever,

now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal spirit

rule in all our hearts alone;

by thine all sufficient merit,

raise us to thy glorious throne.

History

Charles Wesley, writer of nearly 9000 hymns, wrote this poem, one of our greatest Advent hymns, in 1744. It was first published in a small collection of poems titled: “Hymns for the Nativity.” Wesley published many such small collections, often focused upon a particular season. These were inexpensive and something easily purchased by poorer working-class people. And some were very popular! This particular book was published 20 times.

“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” first appeared in an American Methodist hymnal in 1747, 30 years before appearing in a British Methodist hymnal.

Text

The text, in its original setting, is made up of 2 – eight-line stanzas. In some settings it is broken into four quatrains, which also reflect its underlying structure.

The first stanza, in the first quatrain, lists the desired actions or interrogatives: come, release, and find. The second quatrain describes the one expected to do these actions.

In the first quatrain of the second stanza, Wesley finishes his four-fold description of the child. This is the closest we come to any reference to the Nativity. From the first stanza: “Born to set thy people free” is finished in the second stanza; after they are “free,” they are delivered.

Next, we have a “Child born a King.” This is a very rare occurrence. Most kings start as a prince. And if they are born directly to the throne, they will have a regent until they reach the age of majority.

But our King was born a child. This child/king was born to reign forever. Throughout the second stanza we are looking at the one who is coming. The third quatrain describes and ends with the announcement of the “gracious Kingdom.”

In the final quatrain, we have the Eternal Spirit of our King ruling in our hearts alone. And finally, with the rule of the Spirit within the gracious kingdom; the King’s sufficient merit alone will usher us to the throne of God.

The two opening words associated with this hymn, “Come” and “Hail” reflect the three anticipatory natures of this text: Israel waiting for its Messiah; the beginning of Advent and the impending birth of our Savior; and then the return of our Messiah in the final days. “Come, thou…” gives voice to this anticipated coming. “Hail, thou…” announces the arrival of the One “born a child and yet a King.”

Wesley introduces this trifold theme in the second half of the first stanza. He recalls the Abrahamic promise that his offspring would be a blessing to all the nations.

“Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art.” Since its founding as a people, Israel was meant to be a blessing to all the world. Even as sin and rebellion dogged her at every turn, the promise never failed. The “dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart” has arrived.

The opening stanza is one which we do well to ponder today. Even as Wesley worked hard to help the orphan and downtrodden in England and elsewhere, he understood where real freedom comes from. “…set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us.” The freedom offered by Jesus is not a political freedom, (though alleviating political oppression is certainly within our calling), true freedom comes from the release from the judgement of our sins and our sinful nature.

The text is almost Psalm-like in its alteration between description and command or interrogative.

  1. Come, thou… interrogative

born to                           descriptive

…. release us               interrogative

… find our rest              interrogative

1B. Israel’s strength…     descriptive

Hope of all..                descriptive

Dear desire…             descriptive

Joy of every…            descriptive

  1. Born 3 times descriptive

…. Kingdom bring        interrogative

2B. By thine own…          descriptive

rule in all..                  interrogative

by thine all…              descriptive

raise us to…              interrogative

Here are just a few of the many Biblical references made in this short hymn:

Haggai 2:7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Psalm 68:34 Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens.

Joel 3:16 The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.

Ezekiel 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

II Corinthians 1:22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

II Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Music

While I have found 22 different tunes so far for this text, most combinations have been one off’s or otherwise very short-lived.

Based upon the traffic on my YT channel, the tune “Stuttgart” is by far and away the most popular. It is a solid and simple tune often listed as an alternate tune in Presbyterian hymnals and the only tune in Lutheran and Episcopal hymnals. It was written by Christian F Witt I in 1716, so it predates Wesley’s poem by a few decades.

Hyfrydol” is in second place. It is a lyrical Welsh tune from about 1830 written by Rowland H Prichard. (Many will recognize it as the tune usually sung with another Wesley hymn: “Love Divine, all Loves Excelling.”)

In close third place is “Jefferson” written by W Walker in 1818.

A fourth tune, more commonly found in Catholic and other “high church” denominations, is “Cross of Jesus” by: John Stainer (1887) which was part of his oratorial “The Crucifixion.”

Most of the rest of the tunes were recorded in preparation for this article so insufficient data is available. But most of these tunes came out of 100+ year old hymnals so they likely have fallen into disuse.

Conclusion

A sign of a great poet or writer is their ability to say much with few words, to fill each phrase with layers of meaning just begging to be unpacked. Texts of this quality stand as stark contrasts to much of the pablum of most modern worship music. Charles Wesley has about 8500 hymns we never see anymore, so he was just as capable of writing poorly as any writer today. But when he got it right, there are few who can touch his work.

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Here are some of my favorite Hymnals:

Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook: http://amzn.to/2zSRdpL

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2DEOl1H 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:  http://amzn.to/2C1WuwK

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:  http://amzn.to/2CfJ1Wq

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2DDvbJC

Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin:  http://amzn.to/2DQ6gUy

Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945 http://amzn.to/2Dx97nA

Book of Psalms for Singing https://amzn.to/2ygM00b    (1912 Psalter is unavailable)

Here are my new projects:

Hymns Ancient and Modern https://amzn.to/3dfaHIY

J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales  http://amzn.to/2DSy5f9

References:

Dictionary of Hymnology:  http://amzn.to/2BxPabk

American Hymns Old and New https://amzn.to/3fqkkVU

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