Essay: Gazing at the Wounds: The Blood of the Lamb Imagery in the Hymns John Cennick, by Tom Schwanda

Appearing in the volume Heart Religion: The Reshaping of Protestant Piety, The Sources and Nature of British Pietism, 1690–1860 (edited by John Coffey, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 113­–137), Tom’s essay explores a theme found in many hymns by John Cennick, (1718 –  1755) an early Methodist and Moravian evangelist. Here’s Tom’s summary:

Eighteenth–century evangelical hymnody reveals a fascination for the blood and wounds of Jesus Christ.  This chapter explores this development by comparing the hymns of two Moravians, John Cennick and Count Zinzendorf.  Cennick is little known today but was the author of some of the most popular hymns of the eighteenth century.  Zinzendorf was the leader of the Moravians and known for his extravagant language of devotion to the side wound of Jesus.  Hymns were one of the primary texts of evangelical spirituality and tended to focus on the heart for the stimulation of affections and deeper formation.  This essay traces the historical roots for the blood of the lamb imagery.   While neither author was aware of the medieval sources that Caroline Walker Bynum analyzes in her book, Wonderful Blood, Cennick traced his inspiration to an Ignatian text and Zinzendorf to early German Lutheran pietistic sources.  “Gazing at the Wounds” provides a contemplative approach to studying these hymns and suggests ways that the metaphor was intended to shape its readers.  The chapter concludes that while there were numerous similarities between Cennick and Zinzendorf, that Cennick’s more moderate poetic imagery has continued to inspire contemporary evangelical hymnody.

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