Ten thousand charms

The Pharisees saw asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matthew 9: 11-12)

Remember, we’ve just learned that Matthew the tax collector has left his tax booth to follow Jesus, and apparently, like Zacchaeus, another repentant tax collector who decided to follow Jesus (Luke 19:1-10), has decided to throw a party to celebrate. Zacchaeus, we are told, “received [Jesus] joyfully,” and in Luke’s telling of the story at hand, our tax collector “made a great feast” for Jesus.

But the religious leaders are aghast, and complain to and about the disciples that Jesus shouldn’t be keeping such company. (Are they not brave enough to approach Jesus directly?) Jesus’s reply is clear: he’s come to help, and to help those who need it, and who recognize their need. He’ll spend his time with them, not with those who feel no need of him.

Joseph Hart’s famous text is based in part on the idea of Jesus as a great physician for the soul:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

Refrain:

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I’m left with a bit of a question: who do I know who “feel their need of him,” and yet have not yet found him? Who would rejoice like Matthew and Zacchaeus and find the “ten thousand charms” of Jesus’s healing pity, love and power?

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About Will Fitzgerald

I work on recommendation systems and lexical resources for Wordnik.

18 thoughts on “Ten thousand charms

  1. Katie says:

    I really like the song “I will arise and go to Jesus” It is rich and powerful in melody and meaning!!

  2. Barbara Horn says:

    Makes me cry…the image is beautiful and says it all, really…

  3. Dave says:

    Jesus has nothing to do with 10,000 charms.

    The history of charm bracelets goes back to ancient times when charms were worn to please the gods, to ward off evil spirits, or to gain entry into the afterlife.

    Charms have nothing to with Jesus Christ

  4. A charming comment, to be sure.

  5. Mark says:

    I would like further explanation of “ten thousand charms.” I agree that the song is beautiful and evokes emotions, yet, when I dwell on the words I always get hung up on ” O there are ten thousand charms.” Can someone further explain?”

  6. “Charm” is used here is the sense of “delight” or “pleasure.” Being in the care of Jesus (“in the arms of my dear Jesus”), says Hart, is completely delightful. This is in strong contrast to being “weak and wounded, sick and sore.”

    It’s hard to believe that Hart didn’t also intend for there to be an image of the Prodigal Son, in which the prodigal “arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

    It has very little to do with charms and amulets, any more than it has to do with the quality of ‘charm’ in particle physics. There is an etymological relationship, and nothing more.

  7. gina says:

    I really like the song too and I understand about that the ten thousand charms not really meaning charms(like in a charm bracelet) but at the same time it bothers me for some reason. I guess I kind of agree with Mark. I wonder what Jesus thinks about that part of the song? I am sure He knows what the author intended by it.

  8. Jesus, I believe, loves this song. It expresses the heart’s sincere desire to love and praise him, and to bring our burdens to him.

  9. Doug says:

    There is a christian book called “Ten Thousand Charms” I thought if I read it I might find a little more information about where this phrase originally came from. I am sure that it has been included in a sermon someone has preached many years ago. I am leading our congregation in worship with this song and looking for something to give them before singing it to establish the meaning for the last line since it repeats at the end a few times. If anyone finds a biblical reference I would love to read it. Thanks

  10. Read the Song of Solomon. I think Hart is alluding to the images there. Such as:

    3.2 I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth.

    8.3 His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.

    5.10 My beloved is … the chiefest among ten thousand.

    5.16 He is … altogether lovely.

    Again, Hart is using “charm” is the sense of something delightful; nothing more, nothing less.

  11. Carole says:

    As you can well imagine, since this post was originally written in August of 2006, there have been a lot of people referring back to it and finding it while doing internet searches. In fact I do not think it would be too far fetched to say it is probably the most popular thing that has been written on this website. And I have to wonder why? Why are people drawn to this concept?
    It is because we would like to have some sort of talisman against the pain and suffering in life? Or are people looking for a quick fix? Or, as Will rightly says, are people looking for joy and delight in a world that has little? Are people looking for comfort in the arms of Christ as Hart says it can be found? It could be all of these, some or none.
    What I do think is this; when the world seems against us day after day, and we are tossed and torn in a world gone mad, cruel, and violent – we look for something that will heal us. A charm that will take away what is inflicted on us. AND we want something that we can come back to time and time again with out fear of it being depleted. Ten thousand of something seems to be a pretty safe bet. And maybe that is why this original post has been looked at least 1,750 times; yes, you read that right.
    Humanity is searching for something! Many have found a very “charming” God and an equally wonderful Jesus. Hopefully still more will find the Divine.
    In summation, thank you Will for your original thoughts on this topic, and thank you gentle readers for your interest and response. Shalom.

  12. Cheryl says:

    Add me to the 1750 posts/views! I was looking it up after searching a name for a non-profit we’re creating, and we sang the song in worship. We looked at each other, and thought we’d better look into it. Unfortunately, we did not find any biblical reference, of course. However, I agree with Will. I think it is too easy to look towards a literal explanation. For me, personally, I think of a charm as a “blessing”, not a material item.

  13. Jeff Ray says:

    While the “ten thousand charms” line in the Todd Agnew version of “Come Ye Sinners” did not sit well with me, at first, after taking a quick peek at the original lyics in the Joseph Hart version found in The Baptist Hymnal (1991 edition), I noticed that it was the last phrase in the refrain.

    Considering that this hymn was written prior to 1800, I decided to give the line in question the benefit of the doubt, and assumed that it was written in the vernacular of the era. When singing this version of the song, the militaristic tempo of the melody pretty much erases any of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentiment that one may feel when singing Todd Agnew’s version.

    Would I have preferred that Todd Agnew’s version changed that particular lyric? In a word, yes. But, to his credit, he stayed true to the original lyrics and simply made the melody more compatible with today’s listeners and singers.

  14. Paul says:

    White Fluffy Frosted Lucky Charms,
    They’re magically delicious!

    n paranormal magic:

    * “Lucky charms” such as amulets, touch pieces and painted pebbles
    * Charm bracelet, an item of jewelry worn around the wrist that carries personal charms
    o Italian charm bracelet
    * Spell (paranormal), when a charm is a spell, it is usually traditional in form and often in verse
    * Similar to blessing, the infusion of something with holiness, divine will, or one’s hopes
    * Charmer, a practitioner of folk magic
    * Charmed, a television show about witches
    * Charms, a subject taught in Harry Potter

    I wish the song had a different ending. I have trouble associating charm with anything to do with Jesus, blessings yes, charms sounds wrong. Our church sang it today, I think I’ll go have a magically delicious cereal now.

  15. Nathan says:

    According to Matthew Smith, who is a part of the Indelible Grace movement in Nashville that records old hymns to new music (sorry I don’t have a more scholarly reference), that whole chorus is not original to Joseph Hart. In fact, each verse was apparently truncated by two lines to fit the music. Take a look:
    http://matthewsmithmusic.blogspot.com/2005/03/come-ye-sinners-or-hart-herald-angels.html

  16. dave says:

    Have appreciated all the postings.
    I would also prefer a different wording to “ten thousand charms”. In today’s age of spirituality and spiritism, those who haven’t taken the time to research or understand the alluded to meanings above, may easily see this as a way of combining Jesus with other spiritism or spirituality practices. And Jesus will have nothing to do with it. God is jealous of His creation and doesn’t tolerate compromise. Following Christ is inclusive and exclusive–inclusive of all who would follow Him, and exclusive to all who follow Him. He is the wooer, and He enlivens. But He uses no “magical”(my word) charms. Look up the link prior to this for Matthew Smith’s version. A beautiful example of unwarranted artistic license on the part of someone after Matthew.

  17. Christina says:

    This issue of symantics is so silly. Honestly if I was an unbeliever who stumbled on this I would think some of you intellectual snobs who liked the sound of your own voices. Charm- something beautiful- Jesus has way more attraction then any thing else that attracts you! Please. Knock it off.

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