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Having the Form of Godliness

Long have I seemed to serve thee Lord

Author: Charles Wesley
Tune: ST. FRANCES (Löhr)
Published in 68 hymnals

Printable scores: PDF, MusicXML
Audio files: MIDI

Representative Text

1 Long have I seem'd to serve the Lord,
With unavailing pain;
Fasted, and pray'd, and read thy word,
And heard it preach'd in vain.

2 Oft did I with the assembly join,
And near thy altar drew,
A form of godliness was mine,
The pow'r I never knew.

3 I rested in the outward law,
Nor knew its deep design;
The length and breadth I never saw,
The heighth of love divine.

4 To please thee thus, at length I see,
Vainly I hop'd and strove:
For what are outward things to thee,
Unless they spring from love?

5 I see the perfect law requires
Truth in the inward parts;
Our full consent, our whole desires,
Our undivided hearts.

6 But I of means have made my boast,
Of means an idol made!
The spirit in the letter lost,
The substance in the shade!

7 Where am I now or what my hope?
What can my weakness do?
Jesu, to thee, my soul looks up:
’Tis thou must make it new.

Source: A Pocket Hymn Book: designed as a constant companion for the pious, collected from various authors (9th ed.) #HIX

Author: Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley, M.A. was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family, perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn-writer of all ages. Charles Wesley was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and was born at Epworth Rectory, Dec. 18, 1707. In 1716 he went to Westminster School, being provided with a home and board by his elder brother Samuel, then usher at the school, until 1721, when he was elected King's Scholar, and as such received his board and education free. In 1726 Charles Wesley was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729, and became a college tutor. In the early part of the same year his religious impressions were much deepene… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Long have I seemed to serve thee Lord
Title: Having the Form of Godliness
Author: Charles Wesley
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain


Long have I seemed to serve Thee, Lord. C. Wesley. [Formal Religion.] Written during the disputes between the Wesleys and the Moravians concerning Antinomianism and Perfectionism. Dr. Jackson sums up the controversy in his Memoirs of C. Wesley (abridged edition, 1848, p. 98) thus:—

"Molther was the most active and strenuous in propagating the errors by which many were misled. He contended that there are no degrees in faith; so that those who have not the full and unclouded assurance of the divine favour, whatever they may possess besides, have no faith at all. Another tenet which he avowed and defended was, that till men have faith, they are not to use any of the means of grace, such as the reading of the Scriptures, attending the ministry of the Gospel, and receiving the Holy Communion; these ordinances being rather injurious than beneficial, till men have a true and vital faith. . . . The fine hymn on Christian Ordinances, and beginning,

‘Still for thy lovingkindness, Lord,
I in Thy temple wait,'

was written by Mr. C. Wesley at this period [1739-40], as an antidote to the mischievous errors which were prevalent."

The hymn was included in the Wesley Hymns & Sacred Poems, 1740, in 23 stanzas of 4 lines, and headed "The Means of Grace" (Poetical Works, 1868-72, vol. i. p. 233). In 1780 J. Wesley compiled two hymns therefrom, and gave them in the Wesleyan Hymn Book as:—
1. Long have I seemed to serve Thee, Lord, No. 88.
2. Still for Thy lovingkindness, Lord, No. 89.
These hymns have been repeated in numerous hymnbooks in Great Britain and America. In the American Unitarian Hymns for the Church of Christ, 1853, the first of these is reduced to 4 stanzas.

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



The Cyber Hymnal #3904
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The Cyber Hymnal #3904

Include 67 pre-1979 instances
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