Posted by: rcottrill | February 28, 2011

At Calvary

Words: William Reed Newell (b. May 22, 1868; d. Apr. 1, 1956)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Mr. Towner sometimes used the pen name Robert Beverly.

This is a marvelous gospel song. The interesting story of how it came to be written is found at the above Wordwise Hymns link. My only counsel to you is not to sing the hymn too fast. The singable tune does seem to lend itself to bouncing along more quickly than the words merit. Sing it meditatively and prayerfully. Think about the clear teaching of the gospel of grace it contains.

Take a look at stanza CH-1. Here is the sinful condition of man writ plain. Each person born into the world is born with a fallen sin nature. We sin because we’re first of all sinners by nature–and “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). Such a nature does not naturally seek after God (Rom. 3:11). Rather, it tends to be self-centred and self sufficient, characterized by “vanity and pride.” Either sinners are ignorant of the saving work of Christ (“knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary”). Or, if they know, they don’t care, don’t see it as relevant to them (“caring not my Lord was crucified”–cf. I Cor. 1:18; 2:14).

It is a sobering state of affairs. And one which we have no power in ourselves to remedy (Rom. 5:6, 8). But God in his grace and mercy did not leave us in our lost and helpless condition. He sent His Son to die upon the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty of sin we owe (Jn. 3:16; I Cor. 15:3; I Jn. 4:10). In the words of Dr. Newell’s refrain:

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

In CH-2, the author reminds us of the importance of God’s inspired written revelation, the Bible. And he zeroes in on an aspect of preaching that is too often forgotten today. Some want to jump immediately to a declaration of God’s love and saving power, without teaching plainly the reason why we need saving! The moral standard of God must be presented and understood. It has been violated, and judgment is due. That is what the Spirit of God uses to convict the sinner and awaken him or her to a sense of need (I Tim. 1:8-11).

Concerning the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus says, “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16:8). When the truth of how I offended a holy God is realized, when “by God’s Word at last my sin I learned,” then I trembled at the law I’d spurned.” It is when we grasp the bad news that we’re ready for the good news. Then “my guilty soul, imploring, turned to Calvary,” there to trust in Christ.

And what is the logical result of trusting in the Saviour? How will a saved individual live in the light of Calvary? Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [because of all He has done for you]. That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Dr. Newell expresses it this way, in CH-3: “Now I’ve given to Jesus everything, now I gladly own Him as my King.” There will be a surrender to His Lordship. And also a heart filled with praise: “Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary!”

CH-4 is pure worship and praise:

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!

1) How would you explain God’s plan of salvation to a seeking sinner?

2) What would you say to one who believes he/she is good enough to get to heaven?

3) Dr. Newell speaks in the fourth stanza of “the mighty gulf [the wide gap]” that God spanned to save us. What does he mean by this expression?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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