DEPTH OF MERCY
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on You. (Psalm 86:5)
Although Charles Wesley had been trained for the Anglican church ministry and had been active in religious activities, there came a time when he realized that he had never personally experienced God’s love and mercy. His crisis experience occurred on May 20, 1738, as he met with a small group of Moravian believers in the Aldersgate Hall in London, England. That evening he wrote in his journal:
At midnight I gave myself to Christ, assured that I was safe, whether sleeping or waking. I had the continual experience of His power to overcome all temptation, and confessed, with joy and surprise, that He was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me above what I can ask or think.
Following his “heart-warming” experience at Aldersgate, Charles with his brother John developed an intense desire to bring others to a personal conversion experience and to teach the great truths of the Scripture. To aid in these endeavors, Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymn texts on every aspect of the Christian life, fitting them to any popular tune that suited the meter and message of the lines.
The Wesleys spread their message of God’s mercy and His power to transform lives to all social classes. They spent much time ministering to the cruelly treated prisoners of Newgate Prison in London and visited the dreadful Bedlam, a dungeon for the insane.
“Depth of Mercy” first appeared in the Wesley hymnal, Hymns and Sacred Poems, in 1741. It has 13 stanzas and was titled “After a Relapse Into Sin.” These words suggest the personal experience of Charles before and after his “heart-warming” spiritual experience at Aldersgate.
Depth of mercy! can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear—me, the chief of sinners spare?
I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to His face, would not harken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Now incline me to repent; let me now my sins lament; now my foul revolt deplore, weep, believe, and sin no more.
There for me my Savior stands, holding forth His wounded hands; God is love! I know, I feel, Jesus weeps and loves me still.
For Today: Psalm 136:1; Isaiah 55:6, 7; Micah 7:18–20; Romans 2:4
The Hebrew word for “mercy” literally means “to get inside another’s skin,” to be completely identified with that person. This is what Christ has done for us. Now He asks that we demonstrate this same quality to others.