1767 Charles Wesley Hymnal


Trinity Hymns
“Charles Wesley laid particular emphasis on hymns of praise to the Trinity. He included a set of short hymns with this focus in HSP (1740), 100–104; and a second set, under the subheading ‘Gloria Patri,’ in Hymns on God’s Love (1742), 54–60. These were followed by Gloria Patri (1746), which contained twenty-four hymns devoted to the Trinity. Much of the impetus behind these hymns was simple praise. Part of Charles’s concern was to resist the tendency in some contemporary writers to restrict claims about the full divinity of the Son or the Spirit, adopting implicit Arian or Unitarian understandings of God.
In 1756 William Jones, a fellow Anglican priest, published Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity, proved by above an Hundred Short and Clear Arguments, which offered a vigorous defense of the full divinity of all three Persons of the Trinity. Both John and Charles Wesley welcomed the book, though they shared a concern that its academic style limited the scope of its impact. In Hymns for Children (1763), Charles Wesley had made the lessons in John’s Instructions for Children more accessible by rendering the central points in verse. He decided to do the same with Jones’s exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity. The result was published in 1767 as Hymns on the Trinity.

Some of the ornamental block designs from the Wesley Hymnal

The majority of this volume (the first 136 of the 188 hymns included) was essentially the exposition of Jones put in poetic form. It follows the structure of Jones’s book, using the same scriptural references, etc. Many of the articulations are very effective. Jones might have appreciated them himself, if Charles had sought his input (or permission!) for the work. The final section of this work is comprised of fifty-two “Hymns and Prayers to the Trinity,” which Charles composed more freely.
The organization of this section is dictated by the metre of the hymns, not the topic. Specifically, Charles arranged the first twenty-four hymns in the section to correspond to the metre of the twenty-four Festival Hymns (1746), allowing him to suggest Lampe’s tunes for these hymns (and the others in the collection with the same metre). Charles had employed this strategy once earlier in Redemption Hymns (1747), and used it for Family Hymns as well in 1767. While a dozen or so of the hymns included made it into other collections used among the Methodists, Trinity Hymns (1767) was never reprinted.