The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Mercy Divine


For Christmas

Words:  Charles Wesley, Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (London: Strahan, 1745).

Source: George Osborn, ed., The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, Reprinted from the Originals, With the Last Corrections of the Authors. Volume 4. (London: Wesleyan-Methodist Conference Office, 1869), pp. 122-123.

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     O Mercy Divine,
     How couldst Thou incline,
My God, to become such an infant as mine?

     What a wonder of grace,
     The Ancient of Days
Is found in the likeness of Adam's frail race!

     He comes from on high,
     Who fashion'd the sky,
And meekly vouchsafes in a manger to lie.

     Our God, ever blest,
     With oxen doth rest,
Is nursed by His creature, and hangs at the breast.

     So heavenly mild
     His innocence smiled,
No wonder the mother should worship the Child.

     The angels she knew
     Had worshipp'd Him too,
And still they confess adoration His due.

     On Jesus's face
     With eager amaze,
And pleasures ecstatic, the cherubim gaze.

     Their newly born King
     Transported they sing,
And heaven and earth with the triumph doth ring.

     The shepherds behold
     Him promised of old
By angels attended, by prophets foretold.

     The wise men adore,
     And bring Him their store,
The rich are permitted to follow the poor.

     To the inn they repair,
     To see the young Heir;
The inn is a palace, for Jesus is there.

     Who now would be great,
     And not rather wait
On Jesus, their Lord, in His humble estate?

     Like Him would I be,
     My Master I see
In a stable; a stable shall satisfy me.

     With Him I reside;
     The manger shall hide
Mine honour, the manger shall bury my pride.

     And here will I lie,
     Till raised up on high,
With Him on the cross, I recover the sky.


In the “Forward” to Vol. 4, p. xii, of The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, the editors noted that in a letter to Charles, John expressed the desire to omit verses 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14 of this hymn. His wishes were not carried out.

In a letter to his brother Charles, dated December 26th, 1761, Wesley expresses a very candid opinion as to the “Nativity Hymns.” Omit one or two of them, and I will thank you. They are namby-pambical.” Judging by the marks in his own copy, he wold have omitted verses 3, 4, 5 of Hymn VI. [“Join, All Ye Joyful Nations”], and verses 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14 of Hymn XVI [“O Mercy Divine, How Couldst Thou Incline”]. For some unknown reason his wishes were not carried out; but “the very best hymn in the whole Collection,” namely, that beginning “All glory to God in the sky,” was restored to the place from which it had been unaccountably omitted in several editions. Posterity has almost ratified opinion; though, doubtless, some portion of the interest felt in this hymn may be ascribed to his singing (or attempting to sing) it on his death-bed.”

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