Trouble and strife…and the lost verses to “Ye servants of God”

We can learn so much about real Christianity by looking into the lives of believers who have run the race before us…and by singing their hymns!

“Ye servants of God, your master proclaim” is a classic Charles Wesley text, still very popular today, with its four verses appearing in nearly half of recent hymn books.

Yesterday I discovered a bit more of its story, and some missing verses that complete the picture.

It was originally published in 1744 in a collection entitled “Hymns for times of trouble and persecution”. At that time, when the Methodist preachers entered certain towns they could not be fully confident they would get out alive. The previous year had seen them left to the hands of the mob in the West Midlands. Moreover, the French were on the point of invading England in support of the Jacobite claim to the throne.

So life in 1744 was not straightforward for a straightforward Christian!

It is into this context that “Ye servants of God” was written. And it had two verses not sung (as far as I know) anywhere today:

The waves of the sea have lift up their voice,
Sore troubled that we in Jesus rejoice;
The floods they are roaring, but Jesus is here,
While we are adoring, he always is near.

Men, devils engage, the billows arise,
And horribly rage, and threaten the skies:
Their fury shall never our stedfastness shock,
The weakest believer is built on a Rock.
How Charles Wesley knew the truth of these sentiments! “The weakest believer is built on a Rock.” It is not our own strength that wins out, but simply the power of the God in whom we trust. Our job is simply to proclaim him.
And how wonderfully the context of persecution sets the tone for what is now normally sung as the second verse:
God ruleth on high, almighty to save,
And still he is nigh, his presence we have;
The great congregation his triumphs shall sing,
Ascribing salvation to Jesus our King.
The whole hymn is here.

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