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And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?

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And can it be that I should gain

Author: Charles Wesley (1738)
Songs of Response
Published in 280 hymnals

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Representative Text

1 And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

2 'Tis mystery all! Th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more. [Refrain]

3 He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me. [Refrain]

4 Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee. [Refrain]

5 No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own. [Refrain]


Sing Joyfully, 1989

Author: Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley, M.A. was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family, perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn-writer of all ages. Charles Wesley was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and was born at Epworth Rectory, Dec. 18, 1707. In 1716 he went to Westminster School, being provided with a home and board by his elder brother Samuel, then usher at the school, until 1721, when he was elected King's Scholar, and as such received his board and education free. In 1726 Charles Wesley was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729, and became a college tutor. In the early part of the same year his religious impressions were much deepene… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: And can it be that I should gain
Title: And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?
Author: Charles Wesley (1738)
Meter: with refrain
Place of Origin: England
Language: English
Refrain First Line: Amazing love! How can it be
Notes: Spanish translation: See "La maravilla de su grande amor" by Wayne Andersen,
Copyright: Public Domain
Liturgical Use: Songs of Response


Scripture References:
st. 2 = Phil. 2:7-8
st. 3 = Acts 12: 6-8, Acts 16:25-26
st. 4 = Rom. 8:1, Heb. 4:16

In a compact poetic manner, this text exclaims the mystery of God's grace extended to sinners who turn to Christ in faith. These sinners receive the righteousness of Christ and can approach the Lord's throne in confidence. Such is the amazing love of God in Christ! Charles Wesley (b. Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, 1707; d. Marylebone, London, England, 1788) wrote his powerful and joyful hymn text in 1738 in the days immediately following his conversion to belief in Christ (May 21); he sang it with his brother John (b. Epworth, 1703; d. London, 1791) shortly after John's "Aldersgate experience."

"And Can It Be" was first published in john Wesley's Psalms and Hymns (1738). It is subtitled "Free Grace" in John and Charles Wesley's Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739). Traditionally one of the great hymns of Methodism, this text appears in a number of modern hymnals.

Like so many of Charles Wesley's hymn texts, "And Can It Be" is full of allusions to and quotations from Scripture; a few of the more obvious texts are Philippians 2:7, Acts 12:6-8, Romans 8:1, and Hebrews 4:16. Wesley's use of metaphors is also noteworthy – he deftly contrasts light and darkness, life and death, slavery and freedom, and especially Christ's righteousness and our unrighteousness.

Liturgical Use:
Service of confession and forgiveness; adult baptism; in conjunction with doctrinal preaching; many other occasions.

Several members of the Wesley family are significant figures in the history of English hymnody, and none more so than Charles Wesley. Charles was the eighteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, who educated him when he was young. After attending Westminster School, he studied at Christ Church College, Oxford. It was there that he and George Whitefield formed the Oxford "Holy Club," which Wesley's brother John soon joined. Their purpose was to study the Bible in a disciplined manner, to improve Christian worship and the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and to help the needy. Because of their methods for observing the Christian life, they earned the name “Methodists.”

Charles Wesley was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1735 but found spiritual conditions in the church deplorable. Charles and John served briefly as missionaries to the British colony in Georgia. Enroute they came upon a group of Moravian missionaries, whose spirituality impressed the Wesleys. They returned to England, and, strongly influenced by the ministry of the Moravians, both Charles and John had conversion experiences in 1738 (see more on this below). The brothers began preaching at revival meetings, often outdoors. These meetings were pivotal in the mid-eighteenth-century "Great Awakening" in England.

Though neither Charles nor John Wesley ever left the Church of England themselves, they are the founders of Methodism. Charles wrote some sixty-five hundred hymns, which were published in sixty-four volumes during his lifetime; these include Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1741), Hymns on the Lord's Supper ( 1 745), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1753), and Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780). Charles's hymns are famous for their frequent quotations and allusions from the Bible, for their creedal orthodoxy and their subjective expression of Christian living, and for their use of some forty-five different meters, which inspired new hymn tunes in England. Numerous hymn texts by Wesley are standard entries in most modern hymnals; fourteen are included in the Psalter Hymnal.

Charles's elder brother John also studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1728. A tutor at Lincoln College in Oxford from 1729 to 1735, Wesley became the leader of the Oxford "Holy Club" mentioned above. After his contact with the Moravian missionaries, Wesley began translating Moravian hymns from German and published his first hymnal, Collection of Psalms and Hymns, in Charleston, South Carolina (1737); this hymnal was the first English hymnal ever published for use in worship.

Upon his return to England in 1738 Wesley "felt his heart strangely warmed" at a meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, when Peter Bohler, a Moravian, read from Martin Luther's preface to his commentary on the epistle to the Romans. It was at that meeting that John received the assurance that Christ had truly taken away his sins. That conversion experience (followed a few days later by a similar experience by his brother Charles) led to his becoming the great itinerant evangelist and administrator of the Methodist "societies," which would eventually become the Methodist Church. An Anglican all his life, John Wesley wished to reform the Church of England and regretted the need to found a new denomination.

Most of the hymnals he prepared with his brother Charles were intended for Christians in all denominations; their Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780) is one of the few specifically so designated. John was not only a great preacher and organizer, he was also a prolific author, editor, and translator. He translated many classic texts, wrote grammars and dictionaries, and edited the works of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. In hymnody he is best known for his translation of selections from the German hymnals of Johann Crüger ('Jesus, thy boundless love to me"), Freylinghausen, and von Zinzendorf ('Jesus, thy blood and righteousness"), and for his famous "Directions for Singing," which are still printed in Methodist hymnals. Most significant, however, is his well-known strong hand in editing and often strengthening his brother Charles's hymn texts before they copublished them in their numerous hymnals.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988

And can it be that I should gain. C. Wesley. [Thanksgiving for Salvation.] Written at Little Britain, in May, 1738, together with the hymn, "Where shall my wondering soul begin?" on the occasion of the great spiritual change which C. Wesley at that time underwent. His diary of that date gives minute details of the mental and spiritual struggles through which he passed, evidences of which, and the ultimate triumph, are clearly traceable in both hymns. It was first published in J. Wesley's Psalms and Hymns, 1738, and again in Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739, p. 117, in 6 stanzas of 6 lines. When included in the Wesleyan Hymn Book, 1780, stanza v. was omitted, the same arrangement being retained in the revised edition 1875, No. 201. It has passed from that hymnal into numerous collections in Great Britain and most English-speaking countries. Stevenson's note on this hymn, dealing with the spiritual benefits it has conferred on many, is full and interesting (Methodist Hymn Book Notes, p. 155). Original text in Poetical Works, 1868-72, vol. i. p. 105.

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



SAGINA, by Thomas Campbell... is almost universally associated with "And Can It Be." Little is known of Campbell other than his publication The Bouquet (1825), in which each of twenty-three tunes has a horticultural name. SAGINA borrows its name from a genus of the pink family of herbs, which includ…

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