Today, marks the birthdays of two Methodist, John Wesley and….. me! Both born on the 17th June 243 years apart. However, in actual fact Wesley has 2 birthdays the 17th and the 28th June; the first marked in the Julian Calendar and the latter by the Gregorian system that came into effect in 1752 when September 2, 1752 was followed by September 14, 1752; a drop of 11 days to conform to the Gregorian calendar.
Whilst his brother Charles was a hymn writer par excellence, John was an active translator of other’s hymns into the English language. Yet there is one hymn that found its way into Hymns and Psalms authored by John; “Eternal Son, eternal love.”
It was first published in Hymns and Sacred Poems (1742), as part of a long hymn of nine 8-line verses headed ‘The Lord’s Prayer Paraphrased’. In the 1780 Collection of Hymns for the use of the People called Methodists it was divided into three hymns of three stanzas each. The first began ‘Father of all, whose powerful voice’*, and the third ‘Eternal, spotless Lamb of God’*. This second part began ‘Son of thy Sire’s eternal love’, which remained the first line until the Wesleyan Methodist Hymn Book of 1904, which changed it to ‘Eternal Son, eternal Love’
I wonder if Wesley had in mind Philippians 2:9-11 when he wrote this hymn? “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Father of everlasting love,
Take to thyself thy mighty power;
Let all earth’s sons thy mercy prove,
Let all thy saving grace adore.
The triumphs of thy love display;
In every heart reign thou alone;
Till all thy foes confess thy sway,
And glory ends what grace begun.
Spirit of grace, and health, and power,
Fountain of light and love below,
Abroad thy healing influence shower,
O’er all the nations let it flow.
Wisdom, and might, and love are thine;
Prostrate before thy face we fall,
Confess thine attributes divine,
And hail thee sovereign Lord of all.
Thee, sovereign Lord, let all confess
That moves in earth, or air or sky,
Revere thy power, thy goodness bless,
Tremble before thy piercing eye.
Blessings and honour, praise and love,
Co-equal, co-eternal Three,
In earth below, and heaven above,
By all thy works be paid to thee!