Keeping the Hymns Close By

Rejoice, the Lord Is King

Author – Charles Wesley, 1707 – 1788
Composer – John Darwall, 1731 – 1789
Published in 1744

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you…Zechariah 9:9

Charles Wesley was the eighteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. He was born in Epworth, England, December 18, 1701. He was educated at Westminster School and afterwards at Oxford University where he received his master’s degree and was ordained. After graduation in 1735 Charles and his brother John were sent as missionaries to America where they served in Georgia. They returned a year later to England and continued to preach the Gospel in Great Britain.

In May, 1738, both of these brothers realized that though they had been zealous in the Church’s ministry neither had personally accepted Christ as Savior. Following his conversion Charles began to write hymns that emphasized salvation and a personal Christian experience. He wrote over 6,500 hymns from the time of his conversion until his death in 1788.

Charles wrote the text for “Rejoice, the Lord is King” in 1744. The original text has six stanzas. Of the four stanzas used in today’s hymnals, almost nothing has been altered from the original text, a testament to Charles Wesley’s poetry. The text of this hymn is also quite clear in its message: It is a call to worship the risen Christ. This is a joyous text as affirmed by the refrain at the end of the first three stanzas: “Lift up your heart, lift up your voice, Rejoice; again I say, rejoice!”

The evangelistic focus of this hymn reflects the energy of the Wesley brothers as they preached the gospel. Since they were calling people toward Christ, it is possible that this text is not so much for congregants in attendance but for people who do not yet know the majesty of Christ. The text itself sums up in simple terms much of who we believe Christ was and still is: Christ is our Savior, King, and Judge.

The tune was written by John Darwall. The four-part harmonization is bright and joyful. DARWALL’S 148TH was composed in 1770, but wasn’t joined to the Wesley text until the late 19th century.

Charles Wesley died on March 29, 1788, having spent over fifty years in the service of the Lord he loved so intimately and served so effectively. Even as he lay on his death bed, it is said that he dictated a final hymn of praise to his wife.

Other hymns by Charles Wesley include, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (April 2014 Hymn of the Month), “O For a Thousand Tongues” (September 2015 Hymn of the Month),“ Jesus Lover of My Soul” (February 2016 Hymn of the Month) , and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (December 2016 Hymn of the Month).

Used by permission from “History of Hymns” by Mr. Johnston, a master of sacred music candidate at Perkins School of Theology and a student of Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program and Distinguished Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Taken from 101 Hymn Stories Copyright © 1982, 2012 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley