1 O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
2 My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread thro' all the earth abroad
the honors of your name.
3 Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease,
'tis music in the sinner's ears,
'tis life and health and peace.
4 He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean;
his blood availed for me.
5 To God all glory, praise, and love
be now and ever given
by saints below and saints above,
the Church in earth and heaven.
Worship & Rejoice, 2003
|First Line:||O for a thousand tongues to sing My dear Redeemer's praise|
|Title:||O for a Thousand Tongues|
|Author:||Charles Wesley (1739)|
|Liturgical Use:||Opening Hymns|
|Article:||"O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" by Charles Wesley - by Robin Knowles Wallace (from "The Hymn")|
“If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all.” So said Peter Böhler to Charles Wesley, inspiring the first line of the classic hymn, “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing, my great Redeemer’s praise” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook.) Written to celebrate the one year anniversary of Charles’ conversion to Christianity, this declaration of Christ’s power and victory in his own life, rich in Biblical imagery of the Kingdom of God, becomes our own hymn of praise. We stand with the angels before the throne of God, lifting our voices as one church to glorify the one who “bids our sorrows cease.”
And yet, we also sing in the knowledge that the Kingdom of God is not yet fully realized. We proclaim Christ’s victory as a declaration of hope that we will see Christ reign over all. We stand with the voiceless, the lame, the prisoner, and the sorrowing, and lift our song of expectation.
Originally consisting of eighteen stanzas, most hymnals have modified the text to include stanzas 7-12 (the first six stanzas are primarily autobiographical of Wesley’s conversion experience), and end with the original stanza 1, the doxology stanza. The title of the song was acquired by Wesley from his friend Peter Böhler, a Moravian, who said, “If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook.) Böhler was in fact quoting from Johan Mentzner’s German Hymn, “O dass ich tausend Zungen hätte,” (“Oh that I had a Thousand Voices.”) The reference to “a thousand tongues” may allude to Revelation 5:11: “I heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands.”
The reference to Revelation is not accidental. The hymn is rich in imagery of the Kingdom of God, both now and in the new heaven and earth. The text speaks of the power of Christ to heal, to forgive sins, to comfort, and to make us new and clean. As such, it acts both as a declaration of what Christ has already done in us, and as a reminder of the hope we have in what is yet to come. To declare the present-tense work of Christ, some hymnals have changed the line “his blood availed for me” in the fourth stanza to “his blood avails for me.”
The most common tune used for this hymn, especially in the United States, is AZMON, a tune adapted by Lowell Mason. The British often use RICHMOND or LYNGHAM. David Crowder provides a contemporary setting of the hymn, using the tune AZMON with guitar and drums and adding an original refrain: “So come on and sing out, let our anthem grow loud, there is one great Love, Jesus.” This setting works particularly well when the hymn is paired with another contemporary song such as “He Reigns” or “Revelation Song” (see "When/Why/How" below). Another option for both organ and praise bands is to begin the hymn with the organ through stanza 1, hold on to the organ on the final note of the verse and softly bring in a guitar riff and build into the second verse with piano and drums. Bring the organ back in as a synth foundation after a few verses. This can be a powerful way of blending old and new worship styles.
Matthew Perryman Jones wrote a new tune for Indelible Grace that uses the words "O for a thousand tongues to sing" as a refrain. You can find his version and a lead sheet on Indelible Grace's website.
Because of the two-fold function of the hymn as both present declaration and future hope, the hymn can be used in a variety of ways throughout the liturgical year and throughout the worship service. Some suggestions are:
Within a worship service, the hymn can be sung in many places:
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org