It might be a little unusual, these days, to send a poem to one of your colleagues. But Charles Wesley was quite a poet, and George Whitefield was quite a preacher!
A Song for the Mission
Whitefield’s plan, as we’ve seen, was to get back across to America. He wanted to preach the gospel there and was raising funds to establish an orphanage in Georgia.
On the eve of his second trip, Charles Wesley sent him what must have been a real encouragement in the form of a kind of hymn.
I include it here for a few reasons:
Firstly, as an example of how poetry can express our joy and sense of purpose in the mission.
Secondly, to demonstrate the warmth of feeling between the Wesley brothers and Whitefield at this time.
And thirdly, as an encouragement to anyone reading who is seeking to communicate the gospel to others, or who is about to launch into a new season of ministry.
Essentially, Wesley is saying, ‘You’ve been called by God to go, so be obedient and stand firm in the whole armour of God’. He is referring to Ephesians 6:10-18. He then goes through each piece of the armour with great poetic skill. Having reminded Whitefield of the armour he is wearing and will be wearing, he exhorts him to preach boldly as a champion even if it means suffering and (gulp) ultimately martyrdom!
Actually, Whitefield did eventually die in America (several years later), though not as a result of persecution, but exhaustion.
But, enough from me…back to Charles Wesley!
To the Reverend George Whitefield
Servant of God, the summons hear,
Thy master calls, arise, obey!
The tokens of His will appear,
His providence points out thy way.
Lo! we commend thee to His grace!
In confidence go forth, be strong!
They meat His will, thy boast His praise,
His righteousness be all thy song.
Strong in the Lord’s Almighty power,
And armed in panoply divine,
Firm may’st thou stand in danger’s hour,
And prove the strength of Jesus thine.
Thy breast-plate be His righteousness,
His sacred truth thy loins surround;
Shod be thy beauteous feet with peace,
Spring forth, and spread the Gospel sound.
Fight the good fight, and stand secure
In faith’s impenetrable shield;
Hell’s prince shall tremble at its power,
With all his fiery darts repelled.
Prevent thy foes, nor wait their charge,
But call their ling’ring battle on.
But strongly grasp thy sevenfold targe, (‘shield’)
And bear the world, and Satan down.
The helmet of salvation take,
The Lord’s, the Spirit’s conquering sword,
Speak from the Word – in lightning speak,
Cry out, and thunder – from the Word.
Champion of God, thy Lord proclaim,
Jesus alone, resolve to know;
Tread down thy foes in Jesus’ name:
Go – conquering, and to conquer go.
Through racks and fires pursue thy way,
Be mindful of a dying God;
Finish thy course and win the day;
Look up – and seal the truth with blood.
© 2009 Lex Loizides