Few today know their Bibles well enough to spot the verse from which Charles Wesley took the theme of this hymn and much of its substance. Leviticus 6: 13 has ‘The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar: it shall never go out’. In this hymn we have the flame, the altar, the inextinguishable blaze, the holy fire, and that most satisfying ending, ‘make thy sacrifice complete’. As always, Wesley refers to other texts and echoes other poets. All is in the service of a text that celebrates and encourages the warm devotion of the Christian.
It needs a warm tune and had to wait for a hundred years until the author’s grandson, the leading cathedral musician of his day, published this tune in his The European Psalmist (1872), a collection of over seven hundred hymn tunes. It gets its name because he had been organist of Hereford Cathedral at the beginning of his career, between 1832 and 1835.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2004