Charles Wesley’s masterpiece, “Wrestling Jacob”

At the time of his brother Charles’ death in 1788, John Wesley praised him for his keen poetic talent. Specifically, he mentioned Charles’ masterpiece, “Wrestling Jacob.” The fourteen stanza poem is a reflection on the character of God as summed up in a single word: love.  The poem appears below. Leave your reaction in the comment thread. Do you agree that God’s nature can be boiled down to love?

Wrestling Jacob

1) 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 to the break of day.

2) I need not tell thee who I am,

My misery, or sin declare,

Thyself hast call’d 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?

3) In vain thou strugglest to get free,

I never will unloose my hold:

Art thou the man who died for me?

The secret of thy love unfold;

Wrestling I will not let thee go,

Till I thy name, thy nature know.

4) Wilt thou not yet to me reveal

Thy new, unutterable name?

Tell me, I still beseech thee, tell,

To whom it now resolv’d I am;

Wrestling I will not let thee go,

Till I thy name, thy nature know.

5) ‘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.

6) What tho’ 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.

7) 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.

8) Yield to me now – for I am weak;

But confident in self-despair:

Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,

Be conquer’d by my instand prayer,

Speak, of thou never hence shalt move,

And tell me, if thy name is love.

9) ‘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 bowels move,

Thy nature, and thy name is love.

10) My prayer hath power with God; the grace

Unspeakable I now receive,

Thro’ 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.

11) 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.

12)  The Sun of righteousness on me

Hath rose with healing in his wings,

Wither’d 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.

13) 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, from thee, to move;

Thy nature, and thy name is love.

14) 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,

Thro’ all eternity to prove

Thy nature, and thy name is love.

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