It may sound obvious but the 1960s followed the 1950s. Spiritual and moral decisions taken in the aftermath of World War II cannot but have prepared the ground for the social disaster that the 1960s ushered in.
The watering down in Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised (1950) of Charles Wesley’s great hymn of the 18th century evangelical revival, Jesu, lover of my soul, often sung in churches during Lent, is a case in point. The revisers decided to omit probably the most spiritually profound verse in it so that, warbling in my middle class Anglican pew in 1950, I might not get offended by its assessment of my human nature:
‘Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
more than all in Thee I find;
raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
false, and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.’
The general excuse the A&M revisers gave in their preface for fiddling with Wesley’s hymns was: ‘Many of Charles Wesley’s hymns have hardly ever been sung as he originally wrote them.’ It is noteworthy that their Victorian forebears included this offending verse in their magnificent hymnal.
It is not difficult to see why the robust doctrinal content of this verse would not be to 20th century liberal Anglican tastes. It does not pull its punches about our human condition – ‘I am all unrighteousness’ – and our desperate need for the truth and grace that is to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Thankfully, the evangelical compilers of the 1999 edition of Mission Praise reacted against the tepid Protestantism of A&M Revised and included this verse.
How refreshing is the spiritual devotion this beautifully doctrinal hymn breathes. For doctrine and devotion go hand in hand in vital Christianity. Clear biblical truth about God and about ourselves can inspire our minds leading to real Christian devotion that transforms the spiritual and moral quality of our daily lives. The living Christ does indeed satisfy our souls at the deepest level.
Does not this omitted verse show us in microcosm the spiritual reason for the disaster that has befallen the older Protestant denominations of Britain since the 1950s and their lamentable weakness in the teeth of the permissive society? And does not the inclusion of Wesley’s devoted doctrine tell us why biblically faithful evangelical churches are by God’s grace growing even in the hard soil of British culture?