Christian Perfection – 10: Singing With the Angels
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
(Wesley’s writings are in bold)
Singing with the angels is more than singing in our churches, even though it may sound like a heavenly choir. To truly sing with the angels, we must sing from the depths of our heart and soul, as we seek to become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. This, I believe, was the intent of John and Charles Wesley in writing and publishing their hymns and poems, as John writes in the ninth part of “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”:
In 1739 my brother and I published a volume of “Hymns and Sacred Poems.” In many of these we declared our sentiments strongly and explicitly. (So, page 24 [of the hymnal]:
Turn the full stream of nature’s tide;
Let all our actions tend
To thee, their source; thy love the guide,
Thy glory be the end.
Earth then a scale to heaven shall be,
Sense shall point out the road;
The creature all shall lead to thee,
And all we taste be God.
I believe we need to meditate upon these words and sentiments very closely. Even in 1739, John Wesley selected these words, “Turn the full stream of nature’s tide”, to acknowledge the abuse of the earth (humans, non-humans, and the environment) that was taking place. He sought to call us back to our original stewardship position and away from one of “dominant exploiter”. We are to manage the whole of God’s earthly creation with His perfect love, for in so doing we glorify God.
The earth, itself, will testify about our actions. It will weigh our intent and actions as in a balance scale of justice. Our God-given common sense has told us what is right and honorable, just as the scales of true justice weigh the difference between good and evil, and point us in the proper (Godly) direction. Every living being (human and animal) shall lead to God, which, as Wesley also expresses, is possible only if we all possess the same God-breathed soul and spirit.
What do people really taste when they eat a piece of flesh? They taste death and pain and suffering, even if they marinate it in all kinds of seasonings and lies. God’s perfect way has no death or pain (Revelation 21:4). We need to return our taste buds to tasting the perfect heavenly will of our heavenly Father, or as Wesley expressed it, “And all we taste be God.”
Wesley continued with the poetic messages of Christian perfection:
Lord, arm me with thy Spirit’s might,
Since I am call’d by thy great name:
In thee my wand’ring thoughts unite,
Of all my works be thou the aim:
Thy love attend me all my days,
And my sole business be thy praise. (P. 122.)
Eager for thee I ask and pant,
So strong the principle divine.
Carries me out with sweet constraint,
Till all my hallow’d soul be thine;
Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea,
And lost in thine immensity! (P. 125.)
Heavenly Adam, life divine,
Change my nature into thine;
Move and spread throughout my soul,
Actuate and fill the whole. (P. 153.)
It would be easy to cite many more passages to the same effect. But these are sufficient to show, beyond contradiction, what our sentiments then were.
The more we (Mary and I) read Wesley’s comments, like the one in the last paragraph above, the more we sense that he is defending his position against his critics. There is a comfortable “social society” aspect to belonging to a church, but we are to belong to God (heart, soul, mind, and might), first and foremost. The social side wants to make us feel comfortable. The spiritual often makes us feel uncomfortable, because it convicts our conscience of our imperfection (the things in our life that keep us from Christian perfection). Thus, those people, who don’t want to change their ways to the perfect heavenly will of our Father, fight the messengers of God and try to discredit them, just as Jesus said they would (Matthew 5:10-11):
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”
So often, we just sing a hymn and never internalize the actual words. Charles Wesley, who is credited with writing more than 5,000 hymns, wanted to give people an uplifting way of relating to God in His perfect will. Then, as we come into His perfect will on the road to Christian perfection, we will indeed find ourselves singing with the angels.