I have come to look at a true hymn as one in which the Biblical truths of God, and who He is, have been presented in a musical format to make it easier to remember and internalize. They are also quite often prayers set to music.
This was the intent of John and Charles Wesley in writing and presenting so many of them. Unfortunately, I have found that a relatively small percentage of the people who sing hymns really read and internalize the message they present. In the fourteenth part of "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection", John Wesley refers to a portion of a hymn without the music. As we read it, let us resolve in our hearts to internalize its meaning and message.
I need not give additional proofs of this [what he
presented in the previous part], by multiplying quotations from the volume
itself. It may suffice, to cite part of one hymn only, the last in that
Lord, I believe a rest remains,
To all Thy people known;
A rest where pure enjoyment reigns
And Thou art loved alone,
A rest where all our soul's desire
Is fix'd on things above;
Where doubt and pain and fear expire,
Cast out by perfect love.
From every evil motion freed
(The Son hath made us free).
On all the powers of hell we tread
In glorious liberty.
Safe in the way of life, above
Death, earth, and hell we rise;
We find, when perfected in love,
Our long sought paradise.
O that I now the rest might know,
Believe and enter in!
Now, Saviour, now the power bestow,
And let me cease from sin!
Remove this hardness from my heart,
This unbelief remove:
To me the rest of faith impart,
The sabbath of Thy love.
Come, O my Saviour, come away!
Into my soul descend!
No longer from Thy creature stay,
My Author and my End!
The bliss Thou hast for me prepared,
No longer be delay'd:
Come, my exceeding great Reward,
For Whom I first was made.
Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
And seal me Thine abode!
Let all I am in Thee be lost:
Let all be lost in God!
Can anything be more clear than:
(1) That here also is as full and high a salvation as we have ever spoken of?
(2) That this is spoken of as receivable by mere faith and as hindered only by unbelief?
(3) That this faith, and consequently the salvation which it brings, is spoken of as given in an instant?
(4) That it is supposed that instant may be now? that we need not stay another moment? that "now," the very "now is the accepted time"? "now is the day of" this full "salvation"? [2 Corinthians 6:2]
And, lastly, that, if any speak otherwise, he is the person that brings new doctrine among us?
I have read the words of this hymn, over and over again, so many times that I've lost count. The message contains the simple Biblical truth about our salvation: it is perfected in God's perfect love, which then resides in us.
Let's look at this state of perfect being in terms of our becoming the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16); or visualize each saved person as becoming like a well heated single family house on a frigid winter day. The warm air in the house is symbolic of the presence of the Holy Spirit and God's perfect love. God continually heats the air (Spirit) with the furnace of His love. But every time we open the door to leave or reenter, we allow cold (unspiritual) air, with all its imperfections, to rush in.
When we leave our "warm house" we go into the unspiritual realm, and are subjected to its temptations (like cold air); but when we again enter our house, the breath of the Holy Spirit once more warms us with His perfect love.
Another remarkable aspect of this example is that God has so designed our bodies that, if properly protected, our body temperature remains remarkably stable, no matter how cold the weather is when we venture out into it. Consider our warm clothing as being like the protective "armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18). If we are careless about maintaining our protective clothing (armor), and remove it in order to sample the world's temptations, we allow the heat of God's perfect love to dissipate and we become cold. But, like removing our coats, we have to make a conscious decision to do so.
Once we have experienced salvation and God's perfect love, our conscience (the prompting of the Holy Spirit) lets us know when something is outside God's perfect heavenly will for our lives. It is Christian perfection that always prays, "protect me from this temptation and give me strength."
Christian perfection doesn't free us from this corrupt world. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of temptation and may even sample it, but Christian perfection very quickly recognizes the error of our ways and repents. It never continues to wallow in sin. It always seeks the perfect heavenly will of God and to be filled with His perfect love.
We cannot work our way into God's salvation, as the Bible and Wesley's questions so aptly point out. Salvation is by the grace of God, alone. However, in that state of God's grace we have also been given an awareness of the perfect will of our Father who is in heaven. Unless we have rejected God's perfect love, we are constantly aware of God's desire for our lives. When people try to defend their living in sin, or lack of empathy for other living beings upon this earth, or try to excuse it away, it is a sign of the lack of salvation and presence of God's perfect will and love. Christian perfection always recognizes sin and corruption, and seeks to remove it; it never tries to justify it. Christian perfection always seeks to live in God's perfect love.