Hymn Spotlight: And Can It Be That I Should Gain

Charles Wesley wrote six thousand Christian hymns, but this is arguably his best known.  Composed in 1738, he often worked in collaboration with his older brother, John, while they were both studying at Oxford.

As part of a study group called The Holy Club, they were known to approach prayer, hymn writing and Bible study in an extremely methodical manner. As a result, their classmates called them – mockingly – Methodists.  Charles, in his methodical way, took the nickname seriously and begat the Methodist denomination within the Anglican Church.

He was born in Epworth, England, in 1707, as an eighteenth sibling, and is the author of the Wesleyan Hymn Book (of the 770 hymns listed, he penned 623).

What makes this hymn extra special: it is believed to have been written immediately after Charles’ conversion, and it may have been sung at his brother’s conversion, three days later. Over the centuries, it is perhaps the most requested of all Methodist hymns in relation to conversion.

The takeaway: we caused Jesus’ death, but also benefitted from it, without condemnation.

Charles was a meticulous journal keeper, recording almost every emotion, heartache and spiritual struggle he experienced (how methodical). The original idea of their Methodist approach was to inject emotion, feeling and passion into worship, a tactic that was almost unheard of at the time. Nevertheless, the spark of the idea caught fire, and the concept of a more personal and emotional relationship with the Lord spread around the world. Beginning in the 18th century, it was a staple of colonial American Christianity. Many believers feel that Charles Wesley was divinely inspired.

And can it be