The stirring words of this hymn reveal the strong character and zealous spirit of the Wesleys. Charles, considered by many to be the greatest hymn-writer of all time, wrote this hymn in 1744, and it was first printed in a booklet, “Hymns for Times of Trouble and Persecution.” Of the more than 6,000 hymns he wrote, “Ye Servants of God” is among his finest examples.
1744 was a year of extreme persecution for the Wesleys. England was at war with France and expecting an invasion to dethrone George II. The followers of Wesley were accused of being friendly with France and were suspected of being secretly involved in the plot to take over the throne. They were often attacked by mobs, and many of the preachers were drafted into the army. John and Charles Wesley were arrested and taken to a magistrate.
Charles printed the hymn as the opening song in the section titled “Hymns to be Sung in a Tumult.” It was written to encourage and strengthen his followers in their time of persecution. There were originally six stanzas, but only four appear in most hymnals.
Stanzas 2 and 3, which are usually omitted, reveal the relationship of the hymn to Psalm 93. The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the waves of the sea. (Psalm 93:1-4).
These two stanzas are what those heroic believers sang when facing violent opposition. Charles Wesley gave then a reminder that God’s gift of salvation and His steadfast love will always remain. Christians throughout the ages have had an astonishing way of flourishing through persecution to become stronger in their faith and witness.
Ye servants of God, Your Master proclaim,
And publish abroad His wonderful name:
The name all victorious Of Jesus extol;
His kingdom is glorious, And rules over all.
The waves of the sea Have lift up their voice,
Sore troubled that we in Jesus rejoice;
The floods they are roaring, But Jesus is here,
While we are adoring He always is near.
Men, devils engage, The billows arise,
And horribly rage, And threaten the skies:
Their fury shall never Our steadfastness shock,
The weakest believer Is built on a Rock.
God ruleth on high, Almighty to save,
And still he is nigh, His presence we have;
The great congregation His triumph shall sing,
Ascribing salvation To Jesus our King.
Salvation to God Who sits on the throne!
Let all cry aloud, And honour the Son!
Our Jesus’ praises The angels proclaim,
Fall down on their faces, And worship the Lamb.
Then let us adore, And give him his right,
All glory, and pow’r, and wisdom, and might,
All honour and blessing, With angels above,
And thanks never ceasing, And infinite love.
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