Wrestling Jacob

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1 Come, O thou Traveller unknown,
Whom still I hold but cannot see,
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee,
With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

2 I need not tell thee who I am,
My sin and misery declare;
Thy self hast called my by my name:
Look on thy hands, and read it there!
But who, I ask thee, who art thou!
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

3 In vain thou strugglest to get free;
I never will unloose my hold:
Art thou the Man that died for me
The secret of thy love unfold:
Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
Till I thy name thy nature know.

4 Wilt thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new unutterable name?
I tell me, I beseech thee, tell:
To know it now resolved I am:
Wrestling I will not let thee go,
'Till I thy name thy nature know.

5 'Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue,
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinnew were unstrung,
Out of my arms thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
'Till I thy name, thy nature know.

6 What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long;
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then am I strong;
And when my all of strength doth fail,
I shall with thee God-man prevail.

7 My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise,
I fall, and yet by faith I stand:
I stand, and will not let thee go,
'Till I thy name, thy nature know.

Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the use of Christians, 1803

Author: Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley, the son of Samuel Wesley, was born at Epworth, Dec. 18, 1707. He was educated at Westminster School and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated M.A. In 1735, he took Orders and immediately proceeded with his brother John to Georgia, both being employed as missionaries of the S.P.G. He returned to England in 1736. For many years he engaged with his brother in preaching the Gospel. He died March 29, 1788. To Charles Wesley has been justly assigned the appellation of the "Bard of Methodism." His prominence in hymn writing may be judged from the fact that in the "Wesleyan Hymn Book," 623 of the 770 hymns were written by him; and he published more than thirty poetical works, written either by himself alone,… Go to person page >


Come, O Thou Traveller unknown. C. Wesley. [Prayer.] This poem was first published in Hymns & Sacred Poems, 1742, in 14 stanzas of 6 lines, and entitled "Wrestling Jacob." It is based on the incident in Jacob's life as recorded in Gen. xxxii. 24-32. Although a poem of great power and finish, it is unsuited to Public Worship. I t received the most unqualified praise from I. Watts, who, J. Wesley said, did not scruple to say, "that single poem, Wrestling Jacob, was worth all the verses he himself had written" (Minutes of Conference, 1788); and J. Montgomery wrote of it as:—

"Among C. Wesley's highest achievements may be recorded, "Come, O Thou Traveller unknown," &c., p. 43, in which, with consummate art, he has carried on the action of a lyrical drama; every turn in the conflict with the mysterious Being against whom he wrestles all night, being marked with precision by the varying language of the speaker, accompanied by intense, increasing interest, till the rapturous moment of discovery, when he prevails, and exclaims, “I know Thee, Saviour, Who Thou art.'" (Christian Psalmist, 1825. xxiii.-iv.)

Notwithstanding this high commendation, and of it as a poem it is every way worthy, its unsuitability for congregational purposes is strikingly seen in the fact that it is seldom found in any hymnal, either old or new, except those of the Methodist denominations.

In 1780 it was given, with the omission of stanzas v. and vii. in the Wesleyan Hymn Book, No. 136, in two parts, Pt. ii. being, "Yield to me now, for I am weak." These parts were subsequently (ed. 1797) numbered as separate hymns, and as such are Nos. 140 and 141 in the revised edition, 1875. In the Hymns for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church, N. Y. 1849, it is broken up into four parts, each being numbered as a separate hymn, as:—"Come, O Thou Traveller unknown"; "Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal"; "Yield to me now, for I am weak"; and "The Sun of Righteousness on me." In their new Hymnal, 1878, which has taken the place of the 1849 book, the division, "Wilt Thou," &c, is included in the first, “Come, Thou, &c." There is also a cento from this poem in the New Congregational Hymn Book, No. 1063, beginning, "O Lord, my God, to me reveal." Original text in Poetical Works, 1868-72, vol. ii. p. 173.

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


Come, 0 Thou Traveller unknown, p. 250, i. In the Primitive Methodist Hymnal, 1887, Nos. 516-18, are three centos from this poem:—(1) "Come O Thou Traveller unknown"; (2) "What though my shrinking flesh complain" ; (3) "I know Thee, Saviour, Who Thou art."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)



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