Charles Wesley’s Hymns Refute the Calvinist Doctrine of Limited Atonement
“Ye Need Not One Be Left Behind/For God Hath Bidden All Mankind”:
Charles Wesley’s Response to the Doctrine of Limited Atonement
Charles Edward White
Spring Arbor University
When John Wesley collected his brother’s hymns for the use of the people called Methodists, he opened the book with his brother’s birthday anthem, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. This song serves as an overture for the hymnal, introducing many of the characteristic themes of Methodist belief. Beginning with overwhelming gratitude and praise for Father and Son, it quickly moves to the proper human response of spreading God’s honor throughout the world. The intense personal experience of forgiveness, liberty, and cleansing comes next and then the declaration that all is of grace by faith fills out the first six verses. With verse six, however, Charles subtly moves from proclamation to argumentation. It is not by accident that against his Roman Catholic opponents he sings, “Look and be saved by grace alone/Be justified by faith.” Nor is the message of verse seven any less controversial:
See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.
With the introduction of the word “every” Charles arguably fires the first shot in a battle against Calvinism that will rage for the rest of his life.