Come, and let us sweetly join (StF 646)

Authors & translators:
Wesley, Charles
Composers & arrangers:
Morrison, Nicola
STF Number:

Ideas for use

Charles Wesley originally gave this hymn the title “The Love Feast”, and it is easily incorporated into a celebration of this ancient meal. See below for more information and links. It is also very suitable for use if marking Aldersgate Sunday (or Wesley Day). However, as a celebration of the way we are encouraged to live out the love of God, “Come, and let us sweetly join” can be used at any time, as a hymn of shared hope and community healing. In Singing the Faith it is the first hymn in the section headed Reconciliation, Healing and Wholeness.

More information

love-feastThe Love Feast, or Agape, is a Christian fellowship meal recalling the meals Jesus shared with disciples during his ministry. The service expresses the "koinonia" or sharing, belonging and fellowship enjoyed within the body of Christ. The feast developed within the early Christian communities and was revived by the Moravians (pictured below), from whom John Wesley learned about it. In his time, it was usually held in the evening. Bread or plain cakes, and water in a loving cup, were passed around, and the token meal became an occasion for sharing religious testimonies.

The editors of The Companion to Hymns & Psalms note that “the difference between the love feast and the Holy Communion is neatly exploited by Charles Wesley” in verse 2: instead of our being invited to the Lord’s Supper, we now invite Jesus to our human feast:

Jesus, dear expected Guest,
thou are bidden to the feast.

In the final verse, Charles’ emphasis on love as “the proof that Christ we know” comes through strongly. Charles was thinking especially of the First Letter of John (e.g. 1 John 3: 11-23 and 4: 7-21). Elsewhere, he draws particularly on the Letter to the Ephesians, not least Ephesians 5:19, echoed in the hymn’s opening, and 2:22. The word “love” is itself used five times in the verse’s eight lines, and is identified with heaven in the final couplet:

Only love to us be given!
Lord, we ask no other heaven.

The Companion editors also comment on the “daring imperative, Stamp”, used in the final verse: “Love thine image, love impart! Stamp it on our face and heart!” It’s a challenging image – both powerful and disturbing, suggesting both submission to a degree we may nowadays find questionable and a kind of ecstatic, confident embrace.

moravian-lovefeast-serving-coffeeA short guide to preparing and sharing in a Love Feast is offered as part of The Story Project. You can find more information (including a traditional Love Feast cake recipe) at A Methodist Love Feast.

The hymn’s journey

This four-verse hymn is the most recent version of what was originally a much longer text, first published in John and Charles Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems (1740). Wesley’s original "Love Feast" hymn was made up of 22 eight-line verses, divided into five parts. These five parts were subsequently used as separate hymns. Of the five, "Come, and let us sweetly join" is the hymn that has become most fully embedded in Methodist tradition, though its form has changed over the years.

The hymn has often been sub-divided into four-line verses (as in Hymn and Psalms, #756) but Singing the Faith returns to the original intention, here set to Nicola Morrison’s lilting, dance-like tune, “Leach”. This version is a shorter than the text in Hymns and Psalms but, like that 1983 version, draws on verses from the first four parts of Wesley’s original. The final verse here (“Hence may all our action flow…”) can be found as verse 4 of “Let us join – ‘tis God commands”, the third part of Wesley’s original, which was included in the 1933 Methodist Hymn Book, #713, and now contributes verse 3 of the present text!

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