From the title of the song alone, one can already presume the narrator’s expression of uncertainty. He questions his worth for the son of God to shed His blood and die for him. This aspect of the song has a similarity with that of Isaac Watts’ “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed.” The narrators in both hymns somewhat doubted the love of Christ by looking at their sins. However, those reservations were overshadowed when they focused their attention on their Christian faith. This scenario becomes visible as the hymns progress. You can clearly see the beautiful transition of these characters from being doubtful to faithful. In the case of “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” the narrator did affirm not only God’s enormous love but also expresses his wonder and awe of it.
Charles Wesley was believed to have written “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” upon his conversion in 1738. With that, it can also be concluded that the hymn is an expression of his personal encounter with Jesus. As he wrote in his journal,
“At midnight I gave myself up to Christ: assured I was safe, sleeping or waking. I had continued experience of his power to overcome all temptation; and confessed, with joy and surprise, that he was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me, above what I can ask or think.”
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Brief Songwriter Background
Charles Wesley (1707 – 1788) was an English clergyman, poet, and hymn writer. Prior to his conversion, Wesley has gone through some crises sometime in the mid-1700s. He experienced physical, emotional, and spiritual illness while on a mission in Georgia. This experience forced him to return to England – with much excitement. With the help of his brother, John, and the Moravians, Charles Wesley found spiritual peace. Indeed, during those darkest moments of his life, he found enlightenment. He began reading the Bible, and one night in May 1738, God spoke to him through a vision. That inspired him to put into a song his wonderful experience with his personal savior. Wesley went on to become a Methodist preacher and, together with his brother, started the Methodist movement in the Church of England.
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