Behind the Hymn: And Can It Be, That I Should Gain


And Can It Be is one of the better-known hymns written by Charles Wesley.

According to The Oxford Edition of the Works of John Wesley, the song was written immediately after the conversion of Charles Wesley.

Charles Wesley was born on December 18, 1707 to Samuel and Susannah Wesley.  Charles was the eighteenth of nineteen children born to the couple.  He was raised in a Christian home, where his father served as a rector of the Church of England.

Charles Wesley

In 1735, Charles followed his father and brother, John Wesley, by taking orders with the Church of England.  While he was serving Christ, he still struggled to find peace.

In October 1735, the brothers traveled to Savannah, Georgia to serve as Chaplain.  They were not well received and Charles returned to England in August 1736.

On May 21,1738, Charles Wesley experienced a conversion at the home of his friend, John Bray.  At the time, Charles was ill and while convalescing read the book of Galatians.  Charles wrote in his diary, “I labored, waited and prayed to feel who loved me, and gave himself for me.  At midnight I gave myself to Christ, assured that I was safe, whether sleeping or waking. I had the continual experience of His power to overcome all temptation, and I confessed with joy and surprise that He was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me above what I can ask or think.”  He wrote, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ.”

Charles Wesley

“A City of London blue plaque at 13, Little Britain, near the church of St Botolph’s-without-Alders, off St. Martin’s Le Grand, marks the site of the former house of John Bray, reputed to be the scene of Charles’ evangelical conversion on 21 May 1738. It reads, “Adjoining this site stood the house of John Bray. The scene of Charles Wesley’s conversion by faith in Christ on May 21st 1738”.”   {Three days later brother John Wesley had a similar conversion.}

Two days after his conversion, Charles Wesley began to write this hymn celebrating his conversion.

Wesley felt renewed strength to spread the Gospel to ordinary people and it was around then that he began to write the poetic hymns for which he would become known. It was not until 1739 that the brothers took to field preaching.

Charles Wesley wrote over 8,000 hymns by the time of his death on March 29, 1788 in London, England.

Thomas Campbell, a Scottish lawyer turned poet, wrote the music for this hymn.  Campbell also became a minister with the Church of England.  Campbell was born in Glasgow, Scotland on July 27, 1777 and died in Boulogne, France on June 15, 1844.

The modern contemporary song And Can It Be (Amazing Love) is based on this hymn.


Charles Wesley wrote And Can It Be after his conversion #songstory Share on X


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