Posted by: rcottrill | June 19, 2013

Calvary Covers It All

Words: Ethel Taylor (b. _____; d. ____, 1950)
Music: Ethel Taylor

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)

Note: There is little information available on this fine song, written in 1934, or its author, but it’s worthy of consideration both for how it came to be written, and for the aptness of its message. The full story is found in Al Smith’s Hymn Histories (pp. 125-127).

The song relates to a dancer named Walter “Happy Mac” MacDonald, whom comedian Eddie Cantor said had the fastest feet in the world. Mac was talented, but he was also in bondage to sin, and addicted to alcohol. One night in the early 1930’s he stumbled into a meeting in the Pacific Garden Mission, in Chicago. When an invitation was given for those present to trust in Christ as Saviour, Mac did not respond. But, as he returned, night after night, workers gradually came to know more about him.

Taylor Walter Taylor EthelwynDirecting the mission in those days (1918-1936) were Walter Grand Taylor and his wife Ethelwyn, affectionately known as Pa and Ma Taylor. Ethel Taylor watched Mac, and her heart went out to him. She prayed, “Dear Lord, please help us say and do the right things, so that we may win Mac to Thee.” Finally, MacDonald did seek counseling, and Ma Taylor listened as he struggled with his past. “You don’t understand,” he prayed. “You don’t know how bad I am, Lord. Really I’m the worst man in the world. You can’t save me; I’m too bad.”

Mrs. Taylor recalled a message she had heard weeks before. Evangelist Percy Crawford had been a rebel in his youth. But one day he accepted Christ as his Saviour. The theme of Crawford’s testimony was, “Calvary covers it all,” and Ethel Taylor shared those words with MacDonald.

He asked her to repeat them, and suddenly the light dawned. “Oh! Mrs. Taylor, I’m so glad it’s true, and you told me. Calvary does cover it all! My whole past of sin and shame.” The former entertainer trusted in the Saviour that night in 1934, and lived to become an outstanding servant of Christ.

A few days later, Ethel Taylor went into the mission chapel, sat down at the piano, and created the words and music of a gospel song.

1) Far dearer than all that the world can impart
Was the message that came to my heart;
How that Jesus alone for my sin did atone,
And Calvary covers it all.

Calvary covers it all,
My past with its sin and stain;
My guilt and despair
Jesus took on Him there,
And Calvary covers it all.

We see this principle of a “covering” in operation in the sacrificial system Old Testament. The offering of a sheep or some other animal on an altar couldn’t actually pay for the sins of a human being (cf. Heb. 10:4). It was only a temporary covering. Each of the thousands of sacrifices offered was an enactment of the principle of substitution–of the innocent dying in place of the guilty. And each one pointed forward to the final great sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Before that, when an offerer laid his hand in faith upon the slain animal on the altar, it was “accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him” (Lev. 1:4), as though it had died in his place. No wonder David cries, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered….to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Ps. 32:1). Forgiveness was granted in anticipation of what Christ would do one day, when He offered Himself as God’s Lamb, dying for the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29).

Often the word “atonement” is used in a broad theological sense to refer to the whole saving work of Christ. But in the Bible–particularly in the Old Testament–it has a more explicit meaning. It literally means a covering. Back then, the sins were covered by the blood of the sacrifice, and were no longer a barrier to fellowship with God. The final provision for paying for our sins and reconciling us to God came at Calvary.

1) What evidence do you see in Scripture than there’s no one so sinful and wicked that God can’t save him or her?

2) What hymns or gospel songs provide the best expression of the saving work of Christ?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)


  1. […] A few days later, Ethel Taylor went into the mission chapel, sat down at the piano, and created the words and music of a gospel song. […]


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