I’ve often wondered whether any recent hymn/worship song tunes are suitable for some older hymns. David Ward has come up with a really appropriate pairing of “I’ve found a friend, O such a friend” with the tune to “How deep the Father’s love”. I think that’s one we’ll want to try some Sunday soon.
Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise thee
For the bliss thy love bestows,
For the pard’ning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows;
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise;
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.
Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wand’rer far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee
From the paths of death away;
Praise, with love’s devoutest feeling,
Him who saw thy guilt-born fear,
And, the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.
Praise thy Saviour God that drew thee
To that cross, new life to give,
Held a blood-sealed pardon to thee,
Bade thee look to him and live;
Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,
Roused thee from thy fatal ease,
Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,
Praise the grace that whispered peace.
Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express;
Low before thy footstool kneeling,
Deign thy suppliant’s prayer to bless:
Let thy love, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise,
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth thy praise.
Francis Scott Key (1817)
Another great hymn I enjoyed singing this afternoon. One line struck me forceably: “Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee”. I hadn’t quite thought of grace operating like that before. But it’s true. That is the grace of God. His justice would have served no warning, only his grace would.
We discussed this a little this afternoon in our men’s study group. We recognize God’s common grace in our world, at least we often do. But most of the world around us doesn’t. To them, it’s just their luck, good or bad. And yet in his grace God has warned us of hell to come. I, for one, am thankful, for it was that threat that alarmed me over forty years ago.
But the hymn doesn’t stop with that aspect of grace. It continues, “Roused thee from thy fatal ease, \ Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee, \ Praise the grace that whispered peace.” Now that’s amazing grace, grace abounding, to the chief of sinners.
I really enjoyed singing this hymn today. It gives a great perspective on life. Many pass Christ by, but his people no longer pass him by. Passing Christ by is to let life pass you by, for he alone gives meaning and purpose to life, the Author of Life itself.
O Jesus, we adore thee,
Upon the cross, our King!
We bow our hearts before thee,
Thy gracious name we sing.
That name hath brought salvation,
That name in life our stay,
Our peace, our consolation,
When life shall fade away.
Yet doth the world disdain thee,
Still passing by the cross;
Lord, may our hearts retain thee;
All else we count but loss.
Ah, Lord, our sins arraigned thee,
And nailed thee to the tree:
Our pride, our Lord, disdained thee;
Yet deign our hope to be.
O glorious King, we bless thee,
No longer pass thee by;
O Jesus, we confess thee
The Son enthroned on high.
Lord, grant us reto mission;
Life through thy death restore;
Yea, grant us the fruition
Of life for evermore.
Arthur T. Russell (1851)
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.
We sang this hymn today. It is a delightfully encouraging and hopeful hymn. There is no other comfort in life and in death but our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all our sins.
I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Saviour of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take.
Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place:
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of thy pure day.
Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
O comfort us in death’s approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by thy pow’r.
Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast thou and no bitterness:
Make us to taste the sweet grace found in thee
And ever stay in thy sweet unity.
Our hope is in no other save in thee;
Our faith is built upon thy promise free;
O grant to us such stronger hope and sure
That we can boldly conquer and endure.
Attributed to John Calvin, 1545 (Je Te Salue Mon Certain Redempteur); translated from French to English by Elizabeth L. Smith in Schaff’s Christ in Song, 1869.
I came across ‘The Cross Still Stands‘ as I’d been reading several other things that meshed with its message. The song seemed to draw them all together.
These hands that should embrace You, Lord
Instead have drawn a rebel’s sword.
My wayward will has dealt the blow
That pierced Your son so long ago.
My actions, Lord, should build Your name,
Instead they labor for my fame.
While outwardly I bless the Son,
I seek man’s praise for what I’ve done.
Lord, this glory-seeking hunger tries
To pull my heart from You:
Such a dark, unwelcome guest who hides
In everything I do.
But Your grace remains and pleads for me:
“Destroy this enemy!”
For the cross still stands
And meets my deepest need.
This heart should worship You alone;
Instead to trifles it is prone.
My tears are drawn by earthly things
But flee when with the saints I sing.
My words should tell of all the grace
You’ve shown in saving me by faith;
Instead I use my tongue to spin
A web to minimize my sin.
David Ward’s haunting melody is well-suited to the equally disturbing words he has drawn from ‘The Dark Guest’ (in The Valley of Vision). It is a song that any congregation should be able to learn to sing easily. And it is a song with which every Christian can easily identify, since the dark, unwelcome guest is no stranger to any of us. (David’s site has an mp3 recording, a lead sheet, the words of the original poem, and an introductory comment.)
I’ve been pondering the raging opposition to God portrayed in Psalm 2. And though, as Christians, we belong to those who have kissed the Son, yet how often we still find the rebel’s sword in our hands. We toy with it at our peril. And all the while we have a greater, finer sword at our disposal, the Spirit’s sword.
The chorus well captures the essence of total depravity as we contemplate the dark, unwelcome guest who hides in everything we do. But despite the realism of the problem of continuing sin, the song finishes on a high note that cuts away all reliance on self. The focus is the cross, the remedy for all spiritual ailments.
The third verse is a great encouragement not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Carl Trueman makes a similar point about prayer, less poetically, but no less powerfully, in his latest Minority Report article, “A Lesson From Peter the Barber” in Themelios (April 2009, 34:1, pp. 3-5). “Church is not somewhere where Peter should go once he has sorted out the problem of this lack of enthusiasm;” writes Trueman, “it is the best place to go precisely to sort that problem out.”
The final verse is a vivid portrayal of self-justification. We’re familiar with the wages of spin, but again, the high note of grace in the chorus lifts the tangled heart from despair.
I found the song’s realism refreshing and thoroughly biblical. The carefully crafted phrases fire the imagination, and yet are not fanciful. They describe reality with an intensity sadly missing in so many modern songs of worship. I don’t think it is too much of an exaggeration to see this song as standing in the tradition of the Psalms. I recognized myself in every line. I find that true of the Psalms. The triumphant “destroy this enemy!” was stirring. The note of grace left me in a hopeful and sober reflective mood.
“For the cross still stands and meets my deepest need.”
I’ve appreciated some miscellaneous postings and sites over the past week:
- Philip Brown has written a good summary article about capital punishment, entitled ‘Capital Punishment within a Christian Worldview‘ (Exegetical Thoughts & Biblical Theology, 24 Apr 2009). While I would largely agree with what he says, I found he came up with some fresh and stimulating arguments.
- Tim Challies had a stimulating reflection on/quote from Ligon Duncan’s book Fear Not!, entitled ‘Eternity Without a Mediator‘ (26 Apr 2009). Hell is a provocative subject, but Duncan has some fresh thoughts that are pretty thought-provoking.
- 360 Cities is an impressive site of panoramic views at various locations worldwide. James Darlack has some targetted links to areas of biblical interest in ‘Panoramic Views on 360cities.net‘ (Old in the New, 12 Mar 2009).
- Reformed Praise is a site with new and updated hymns, mainly by David L. Ward. I liked many of the hymns, and most are easily learned by any congregation. Most come with mp3 and piano score or lead sheet.
Ephesus on 360Cities
This morning we sang this hymn in our gathered worship. It was a powerful reminder of just what the resurrection means.
The final triumph won,
the full atonement made,
salvation’s work is done,
redemption’s price is paid:
the morning breaks, the dark is fled,
for Christ is risen from the dead!
The tomb in which He lay
lies empty now and bare;
the stone is rolled away,
no lifeless form is there:
the sting is drawn from death and grave,
for Christ is risen, strong to save!
For us the Saviour died,
with us He lives again,
to God the Father’s side
exalted now to reign:
to throne and crown by right restored,
for Christ is risen, Christ is Lord!
As one with Him we rise
to seek the things above,
in life that never dies,
in righteousness and love:
let praise unite our ransomed powers,
for Christ is risen, Christ is ours!
Timothy Dudley-Smith, b. 1926
A hymn to put Calvary in perspective.
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.
Who was the guilty? who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.
Lo, the good Shepherd for the sheep is offered:
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered:
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation:
Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.
Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.
Johann Heerman, 1585-1647
tr. Robert S. Bridges, 1844-1930
A hymn for Good Friday.
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he.
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
By his Son God now has spoken:
‘Tis the true and faithful Word.
Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends through fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.
Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.
Thomas Kelly, 1769-1855