O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing

The Worship Initiative Hymns   —   View Song   —     —   Get the Free Devo App

Play the devotional:

“Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise God with them all.” - Peter Boehler 

Charles Wesley wrote more than six thousand hymns. Six thousand! 

Isaac Watts is often considered the greatest hymn writer that has ever lived, and Wesley wrote ten times the number of hymns as Watts.

“Hark The Herald Angels Sing”

 “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today”

“And Can It Be” 

…just to name a few. Not a bad songwriting resume.

And then there is the hymn that has been a mainstay for centuries in the evangelical church around the world: “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”.

Charles was the eighteenth child of Anglican minister Samuel Wesley and brother of the famous preacher John Wesley, Charles spent his life in the church studying theology, actively participating in church traditions, and even serving on Christian missionary trips abroad. Charles Wesley came to genuine faith in Jesus as an adult, realizing that his knowledge of the things of God was not matched with a deeper knowing of God himself.  

As a prolific poet and songwriter, Wesley was known to write at least 12 lines of poetry on a daily basis. This continued after his conversion, and in 1739, Wesley wanted to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his conversion by writing a hymn that would communicate his love for Jesus and gratitude for true salvation. With Boehler’s quote as a reference, he sat down to pen this hymn, which originally had 18 stanzas. Most versions sung today include at least six from that original collection.

Wesley wanted “O For a Thousand...” to include personal testimony as well as doctrinal truth and declaration.  Before his conversion, Wesley fell ill and stayed in bed fearing death. He was visited by a group of friends including his brother; they sang Christian hymns outside his window, and one line from that night stood out to him and brought him great comfort: “…Jesus, the name that charms our fears and bids our sorrows cease.” 

That line, of course, made its way into “O For A Thousand…” as a personal testimony of Wesley’s conversion that night, and is one of the most notable lines of the song.

Jesus the name that charms our fears

That bids our sorrows cease

’Tis music in the sinner’s ears

’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He wrote in his journal that night: 

“I was composing myself to sleep in quietness and peace when I heard one come in and say, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thine infirmities.’ The words struck me to the heart. I lay musing and trembling.

With a strange palpitation of heart, I said, yet feared to say, ‘I believe, I believe!’”

Wesley also was a student of God’s Word, and this hymn is filled with scripture references and truth. There are numerous biblical references throughout, including:

Psalm 145 - glory and praise and splendor 

Luke 4 and Isaiah 61 - proclaim liberty to the captives

Acts 3 – repent, that your sins may be blotted out; Christ appointed for you

Ephesians 2 - triumphs of grace leading to salvation from sin

Colossians 3 - Jesus means life and health and peace to all who act in His name

“O For A Thousand…” celebrates Christ’s redeeming work in our lives by way of the cross, the glory of God as the King worthy of all praise, and the power of salvation to raise mankind from the dead, giving eternal life. 

Our prayer is that as you sing this hymn with your congregation or with your family and friends, or as you listen by yourself throughout your day,  the music in your ears would lead you to gratitude for the “triumphs of God’s grace” in your life, for the glory of God on earth as it is in heaven. We pray that each time you hear this hymn, it would remind you of your own conversion experience and lead you to celebrate  the new life found only in Christ, just as it did for Wesley on the anniversary of his own conversion. Lastly, we pray the people of God gathered together would remind one another as they sing this great hymn that the call of Christ is to spread the good news “through all the earth abroad”, inviting us to be a people on mission to tell others of what Christ has done for us, and can do for anyone who believes. In Jesus name, Amen.