Come let us join our friends above
That have obtain’d the prize,
And on the eagle-wings of love
To joy celestial rise;
Let all the saints terrestrial sing
With those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King
In earth and heaven are one.
One family we dwell in him,
One church above, beneath,
Tho’ now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death:
One army of the living God,
To his command we bow:
Part of his host hath cross’d the flood,
And part is crossing now.
Ten thousand to their endless home
This solemn moment fly,
And we are to the margin come,
And we expect to die:
His militant, embodied host
With wishful looks we stand,
And long to see that happy coast,
And reach that heavenly land.
Our old companions in distress
We haste again to see,
And eager long for our release
And full felicity:
Ev’n now by faith we join our hands
With those that went before,
And greet the blood-besprinkled bands
On the eternal shore.
Our spirits too shall quickly join,
Like theirs, with glory crown’d,
And shout to see our Captain’s sign,
To hear his trumpet sound:
O that we now might grasp our guide,
O that the word were given!
Come Lord of hosts the waves divide,
And land us all in heaven.
As All Saints’ Day approaches, Charles Wesley’s hymn “Come let us join our friends above” is a fine example of his understanding of the Communion of Saints and the relationship between earth and heaven. While juxtaposing the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, “divided by the stream”, he is fundamentally concerned with their essential unity. The first verse emphasises the closeness between the two, as they unite in worship. The striking use of “joy celestial” and “saints terrestrial” in successive lines reveals Wesley at the height of his poetic powers, simultaneously separating and connecting the saints in heaven and those on earth. The second half of the third verse emphasises his understanding of the church as the Body of Christ: while working towards the conclusion, he again emphasises the connection between earth and heaven, first through the joining of hands, which looks forward to the final joining of spirits. The hymn is also notable for the forceful way in which it makes the reader or singer consider their own mortality; few other writers demand us to acknowledge so directly that “we expect to die”. Of course, the deep connection between earth and heaven that the hymn so strongly emphasises places human death in a context where it should be approached with steadfastness rather than fear.
The hymn is better known in Francis H. Murray’s thoroughgoing revision, “Let saints on earth in concert sing” (itself actually the second verse of Murray’s version). This version robs the text of much of its striking language and imagery, reducing its impact on the singer, and its exposition of Wesley’s conception of the Communion of Saints.