Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown’

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19, KJV)

The name of this blog is based on the concept of Christians as strangers and pilgrims, as “unknown, and yet well known.”  However, the title’s wording was inspired by a great Christian poem by a great Christian poet.  Charles Wesley‘s ‘Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown’ is considered his finest work.  Based on the Genesis account of Jacob wrestling with a mysterious man, the poem was originally titled ‘Wrestling Jacob‘ and first published in the Wesley brother’s Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1742.  The other famous English hymn writer of the 18th century, Isaac Watts, was reported by John Wesley to have said that Charles’s poem was “worth all the verses he himself had written.”

Come, O thou Traveller unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

‘Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

‘Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy mercies move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Saviour, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of Righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succour brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Although it was originally a lyric poem, ‘Come, O Thou Traveller’ has been set to many different melodies, among them the tune ‘Wrestling Jacob‘, composed by Charles Wesley’s grandson, the eminent Victorian church musician and composer, Samuel Sebastian Wesley.  A personal favorite is the ‘Vernon’ setting, composed by the one of the early American singing masters, Lucius Chapin.  The popular folk ensemble, Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band, made a lovely recording of this setting for their album of Wesleyan hymns, Paradise Found.

Source:

Text of ‘Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown’ retrieved from: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Come,_O_Thou_Traveler_Unknown

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