12
Aug
10

Wrestling Jacob

This is one of Charles Wesley’s greatest hymns, though it has not proved popular for congregational singing.  This may have something to do with its length, and the fact that it would be difficult to eliminate verses without disrupting the structure of the hymn.

Originally published in 1742 inHymns and Sacred Poems, this version is from A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodist (1780), no. 136 [online here as nos. 140-141].

In the notes of the Bicentennial Edition of Wesley’s Works (vol. VII, p. 250), John’s obituary tribute to his brother is quoted as having said:

“His least praise was his talent for poetry; although Dr. Watts did not scruple to say that that single poem, “Wrestling Jacob,” was worth all the verses he himself has written.”

High praise, coming from the second greatest English hymn writer of all time.

The hymn is a fascinating meditation on Genesis 32:22-32, with the angel interpreted as a figure of Christ.  My favourite line is the first line of the last verse: “Lame as I am, I take the prey”  – a powerful summary of the gospel.

WRESTLING JACOB

Charles Wesley (1742)

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 till the break of day.

2

I need not tell thee who I am,

My misery or 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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

7

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.

8

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 they name, is LOVE.

9

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.

10

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.

11

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.

12

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.

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2 Responses to “Wrestling Jacob”


  1. 1 Andrew
    November 7, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    LOVE this hymn. We sing it occasionally in my PCC church.

  2. November 7, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I’ve never had the chance to sing it at Church. Hopefully I’ll get to some day!


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