Charles Wesley: “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”


An ongoing paradox of my spiritual life is the interplay of willpower and surrender. I am flung back most heavily upon God when I reach the limits of my moral or intellectual abilities to solve some problem. At such times I must learn to quit thrashing around and trust that God will reveal the way forward in His own good time. I have an aversion to inactivity, which always feels to me like edging close to the precipice of depression. Yet, as anyone who’s practiced meditation can testify, rest is not the same as passivity or inaction. Stillness is hard work! That’s where the willpower comes in. Not to batter my way bull-headedly through my problems on my own, but to cling with all my might to the promises of God, and refuse to be distracted by subtle doubts and speculations. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)

Richard F. Lovelace recently sent me a link to this classic hymn by Charles Wesley, a presentation of the gospel through the metaphor of Jacob wrestling with the angel, which to me expresses the perfect balance between God’s action and ours:

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.


Sing along at CyberHymnal!

2 comments on “Charles Wesley: “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”

  1. Leah Gregg says:

    “Thy nature and thy name is love” I really like that and I like this entry. I also like the picture on the cyberhymnal page, where Jacob is clinging to the angel, sort of like Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

  2. blogi says:

    Thank you, very nice post.

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