I really have come to appreciate the depth of truth and emotion in older hymns over the past few years. I’ve always loved hymns, but the more I’m exposed to the inferior, ephemeral, insubstantial, and inconsequential in services of worship, the more I appreciate them. It was good to sing God’s praise at the Expositors’ Conference this week using hymns old and new.
Here’s another hymn I’ve sung recently that has a realistic approach to death: the comfort of God’s grace. Of course, that’s also the main thing in life.
By grace I am an heir of heaven:
Why doubt this, O my trembling heart?
If what the Scriptures promise clearly
Is true and firm in ev’ry part,
This also must be truth divine:
By grace a crown of life is mine.
By grace alone shall I inherit
That blissful home beyond the skies.
Works count for naught, the Lord incarnate
Hath won for me the heav’nly prize.
Salvation by his death he wrought,
His grace alone my pardon bought.
By grace! These precious words remember
When sorely by thy sins oppressed,
When Satan comes to vex thy spirit,
When troubled conscience sighs for rest;
What reason cannot comprehend,
God doth to thee by grace extend.
By grace! Be this in death my comfort;
Despite my fears, ’tis well with me.
I know my sin in all its greatness,
But also him who sets me free.
My heart to naught but joy gives place
Since I am saved by grace, by grace.
1742, Christian Ludwig Scheidt (1709-61),
tr. H. Brueckner.