Posted by: rcottrill | September 11, 2013

I Am Coming to the Cross

Words: William McDonald (b. Mar. 1, 1820; d. Sept. 11, 1901)
Music: William Gustavus Fischer (b. Oct. 14, 1835; d. Aug. 13, 1912)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William McDonald was an American of Scottish descent who served as a preacher with the Methodist Episcopal Church, also doing a considerable amount of writing and editing. One day, on a sudden inspiration, he wrote a hymn suited to one seeking holiness. He tells us:

“The hymn was written in 1870 in the city of Brooklyn, New York, while I was pastor in that city. I had felt the need of a hymn to aid seekers of heart purity while at the altar. I had desired something, simple in expression, true to experience, and ending in the fullness of love.”

The song was sung for the first time at a National Camp Meeting, in Massachusetts, on June 22nd of that year, and published a couple of years later. Some versions include the refrain, as the Cyber Hymnal does. Others simply use some of the five original stanzas.

This hymn is rooted in a holiness teaching sometimes called the Second Blessing. Essentially, the idea is that the child of God needs to seek a second crisis experience after the new birth that will give him assurance of salvation, and power. Some even say this “second work of grace” completely eradicates the sinful flesh, resulting in the believer not sinning any more.

Though I know some of my readers adhere to this teaching, and I also have friends that do, I do not believe it is a biblical doctrine. Some have suffered discouragement and defeat in their Christian lives because they do not seem able to have the “experience” others insist they must have.

The truth of God’s Word is simply this:

¤ There is only one spiritual baptism (Eph. 4:4-5) which happens to all believers at the time of conversion. By it the Holy Spirit places us into Christ and unites us with His body, the church (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-28). When a person has Christ, he has everything “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:9-10). There is no “fuller” gospel than that!

¤ The filling of the Spirit (not to be confused with His baptizing work) is His fulfilling of God’s purpose in us by equipping us for life and service (Exod. 31:1-6; Lk. 4:1, 14; Acts 4:31; Eph. 5:18-19; cf. Col. 3:16, etc.). He does this as we walk in faith and obedience toward God. We can be filled (fulfilled) again and again, as needed.

God works in many creative ways in our lives. Whether a person has an unusual second experience (“blessing”) from God–or a third or a fourth–does not make it the norm for everyone. We must not insist others have the same experience we have had, unless God’s Word clearly teaches it is for all. These things being said, there is some merit in this hymn, even though we may disagree with some aspects of doctrine related to it.

If we take the words as describing an unsaved person seeking salvation, most of it makes sense, and has some biblical basis. The Lord invites individuals to come to Him and find rest. Jesus says, “Come unto Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). But the Bible teaches that there is not, in the sinner’s heart, a natural desire to seek after God (Rom. 3:11).

It is a work of the Lord to awaken that longing and draw sinners to the Saviour, and He does (Jn. 6:37, 44). Yet the sad truth is there are some who hear the invitation, sense the convicting of the Spirit, and turn away. An Old Testament text puts it this way: “Thus says the Lord God…‘In returning and rest you shall be saved…but you would not’” (Isa. 30:15). However, for those who do come, there is cleansing from sin, soul refreshment, and rest.

CH-1) I am coming to the cross;
I am poor and weak and blind;
I am counting all but dross;
I shall full salvation find.

I am trusting, Lord, in Thee.
Blessèd Lamb of Calvary;
Humbly at Thy cross I bow.
Save me, Jesus, save me now.

CH-2) Long my heart has sighed for Thee;
Long has evil reigned within;
Jesus sweetly speaks to me:
“I will cleanse you from all sin.”

1) What is your own understanding of the subject of holiness? (Do you make a distinction between positional and progressive sanctification?)

2) Can you see a use for this song as an invitation hymn, applicable to a call to salvation?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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