Palm Sunday rolls around… and sneaked up on me a little this year. I wasn’t certain what hymn to select for today in honour of the calendar, but I’ve decided it’s time to include Charles Wesley’s hymn, “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” in my regular series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. In some way, I suppose it’s fitting — Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people sang Hosanna! to him… and there must have been more than a thousand people involved. Casting a glance back at my youth, I remember singing this song and thinking it was just plain weird. A thousand tongues? What’s that all about? Could this hymn be any stranger? Now that I’m mostly growed-up, I get his point… but this is a purely nonsensical image to a young mind.
The hymn is taken from another that Charles Wesley wrote in 1739 to celebrate the anniversary of a faith-renewing experience for him. According to the Wikipedia entry, the revised shorter hymn “recalls the words of Peter Bohler who said, ‘Had I a thousand tongues I would praise Him with them all.'”
O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing
O for a thousand tongues to sing
my dear Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life and health and peace.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
he sets the prisoner free:
his blood can make the foulest clean;
his blood availed for me.
He speaks; and, listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
and leap, ye lame, for joy!
My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim
and spread through all the earth abroad
the honours of thy name.