By Jerry Rushford
Charles Wesley was raised in a Christian home and was one of the founders of the “Holy Club” at Oxford. However, he always looked back to May 21, 1738 (when he was 30 years old) and the dramatic experience of divine grace on that day as his true conversion which stirred up within him the gift of sacred song.
In the following year, Charles Wesley and his brother John published a hymnal of 223 pages and 139 hymns entitled Hymns and Sacred Poems. There were fifty original hymns by Charles Wesley in this historic volume including “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” He wrote this hymn for the very first service at the original Wesleyan Chapel in London in 1739.
The hymn was published in eleven 4-line stanzas. Wesley did not write the joyful “alleluias” at the end of each line. Those were added later to make the text fit the tune of “Easter Hymn” which had been published anonymously in Lyra Davidica in 1708. On Easter Sunday these immortal words and this stirring tune are still sung in thousands of churches around the globe.
Christ, the Lord, is risen today,
Sons of men and angels say,
Raise your joys and triumphs high,
Sing, ye heavens thou earth, reply,
Love’s redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won,
Lo! our sun’s eclipse is o’er,
Lo! He sets in blood no more,
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal,
Christ hath burst the gates of hell,
Death in vain forbids His rise,
Christ hath opened paradise,
Lives again our glorious King,
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save,
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave?
For an engaging rendition of this hymn, please see this video by Chris Rupp.
Watch this blog for future posts on the history of hymns, by Dr. Jerry Rushford, Director of the Churches of Christ Heritage Center at the Pepperdine Libraries. For more information on the Pepperdine Special Collections and University Archives, including the Churches of Christ Heritage Center, please see our website.