“Where shall my wondering soul begin?”: A Historical and Theological Analysis -- By: Brian G. Najapfour
PRJ 3:2 (July 2011) p. 291
“Where shall my wondering soul begin?”:
A Historical and Theological Analysis1
Born on December 18, 1707, in Epworth, England, Charles Wesley grew up in an Anglican family. In 1726, he entered Christ Church College at Oxford University, where he received his BA (1730) and MA (1733). It was here in 1729 that he led the so-called “Holy Club,” a religious organization that promoted piety through a systematic study of the Bible. Yet, at this time, he was not saved.
In 1735, still unconverted, Wesley was ordained priest in the Anglican Church. That same year he and his brother John (1703-1791) journeyed to the newly found colony of Georgia to start a mission work among the Indians. Their mission being unsuccessful compelled them to sail back to England. Despite this failure, however, this mission trip became memorable to the brothers. It was during this period that they met the Moravians, who made a profound impact on them and on their passion for hymns.
On May 21, 1738, while living in England, Charles Wesley experienced evangelical conversion, which he expressed this way: “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.”2 Two days after his conversion, he wrote a song which he called “an hymn upon my conversion.”3 It is generally believed that
PRJ 3:2 (July 2011) p. 292
this conversion hymn, the first of numerous hymns that he wrote, was “Where shall my wondering soul begin?” What follows is a historical and theological analysis of this hymn, the original title of which was “Christ the Friend of Sinners.”
“Where shall my wondering soul begin?” has eight stanzas and each stanza has six lines.4 The very first line has become the title for the song.
Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer’s praise?
Amazed by his life-changing experience of redeeming grace, Charles Wesley opens his hymn by asking rhetorically, “Where shall my wondering soul begin? How shall I all to heaven aspire?” The hymnist was so astonished that the most glorious God would redeem a “slave” like him. That Wesley considers himself a slave, the lowest of the low in society, indicates his humility. Like the Apostle Paul, Wesley regards all his achievements as loss. ...
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