Posted by: rcottrill | September 3, 2012

There Is a Green Hill Far Away

Words: Cecil Frances Humpheys Alexander (b. Apr. ___, 1818; d. Oct. 12, 1895)
Music: Green Hill, by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Cecil Alexander’s husband became Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland for the Anglican Church. The actual location of the “green hill,” and comments on Mrs. Alexander’s unusual masculine name are found in the Wordwise Hymns link. When a tune is used that has no refrain, the refrain of Stebbins’s tune is the fifth and final stanza.

Mrs. Alexander was concerned to give the children in her Sunday School class a better understanding of basic Christian truth. To that end, she created several hymns based on the Apostles Creed. This particular hymn beautifully expresses the truth that Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.” Though it was originally used to teach children, its depth and dignity make it suitable for all ages.

CH-1) There is a green hill far away,
Outside a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

O dearly, dearly, has He loved,
And we must love Him, too,
And trust in His redeeming blood,
And try His works to do.

There are a number of Bible truths about the redemptive work of Christ that are expressed in the language of this hymn. Christ “died to save us all” (CH-1). Though not all will be saved (Rev. 20:15), His atoning work was sufficient to pay for all the sins of all mankind for all time. “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). “And He Himself is the propitiation [the full satisfaction of God’s justice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (I Jn. 2:2).

However, Christ’s payment can be rejected. It’s only as the all-sufficient sacrifice of the Saviour is accepted through faith in Him that it becomes efficient in our individual lives. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16; cf. 1:12-13). “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (vs. 18).

The personal response is, “I believe that Jesus died for me.” Or in the words of the hymn, “We believe it was for us He hung and suffered there” (CH-2). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3). “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (I Pet. 2:24). “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:16).

Christ was the just One dying for the unjust (each of us). Unless He was perfect, He would be unable to be our Saviour. He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:19), who “committed no sin” (I Pet. 2:24), and was therefore the only One who did not have to be punished for His own sins and was able to die in the place of sinners.

CH-4) There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.

As to the claim of CH-3 that Christ “died to make us good,” it seems best to see that in forensic and legal sense. While the Holy Spirit continues to work in the believer to produce the character of Christ (“the fruit of the Spirit,” Gal. 5:22-23), the result on this side of heaven is imperfect and often inconsistent. It is justification (God pronouncing us righteous through faith in the Saviour) that credits the full righteousness of Christ to our heavenly account (cf. Rom. 3:21-28; II Cor. 5:21). When we put our faith in Christ, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and accepted by the Father in Him.

1) What are some of the blessings and some cautions in presenting the gospel to children?

2) What other hymns come to mind that teach important Bible truths at a level children can understand?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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