Posted by: rcottrill | November 20, 2013

Jesus, and Shall It Ever Be?

Words: Joseph Grigg (b. circa 1720; d. Oct. 29, 1768); amended by Benjamin Francis (b. _____, 1734; d. Dec. 14, 1799)
Music: Federal Street, by Henry Kemble Oliver (b. Nov. 24, 1800; d. Aug. 12, 1885)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: John Rippon, pastor of Carter Lane Baptist Church, in London, produced a hymn book in 1787 with the long title, Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended as an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns. Another pastor, Benjamin Francis, contributed several songs to the collection. One of these was his amended and much improved version of Joseph Grigg’s beautiful (and convicting!) hymn.

The tune, Federal Street, is fine, but I encourage you to check out the beautiful hymn tune Rimmon, which is given as an alternative on the Cyber Hymnal page.

The original hymn was reportedly written when Grigg was only ten years old. It had seven stanzas, of which five are now commonly used. Clumsy though some of the rhyming was, it was a strong statement of moral responsibility and faith. Grigg’s second line in CH-5 read, “When I’ve no Crimes to wash away.” (And yes, he capitalized the word.) One author looks down his adult nose at young Joseph Grigg, calling this a hangover from Calvinism, and:

“[The] morbid sentiment of a boy who thought he had crimes to be washed away at his early age (The Gospel in Hymns, p. 71, by Albert Edward Bailey).

But these belittling objections can be refuted, both from a theological point of view, and a linguistic one. As to its biblical foundation, never mind blaming John Calvin. what does the Bible say? It declares that we are all born with a fallen nature that is prone to sin. We are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3; cf. Ps. 51:5; 58:3). And the fruit of that nature can be seen quite early on, in the rebel disobedience of childhood.

But what about the word “crimes” itself. Our English word comes from the Latin word crimen, meaning an accusation, or charge, or the guilt from such. In modern usage, it not only applies to breaking the law of the land. According to the dictionary it identifies any offence, serious wrongdoing, or sin. So young Grigg was right on target, though the later revision of the hymn substitutes the word “guilt.” (Isaac Watts used the same word in Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed?, asking “Was it for crimes that I have done / He groaned upon the tree?”)

The author attached a Bible text to his hymn, as originally published:

“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38; cf. Lk. 9:26).

There is a legitimate question as to what quality or degree of “shame” is in view here.

One might, for instance, suggest the extreme position that the phrase “ashamed of Me [Christ]” identifies the unsaved person, one who has chosen to remain a part of “this [spiritually] adulterous and sinful generation.” The parallel of Christ being “ashamed” of this individual would then be eternal condemnation, and a Christless eternity in the lake of fire. And “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (vs. 36). If we reject Christ, how can we expect Him to claim us as His own.

But, having said that, the subject in Mark is discipleship (cf. Mk. 8:34). There is something here for Christians too. Verse 38 comes after a call to identify ourselves with Christ, even if it will mean suffering for His name’s sake. Even if there is an application to the extreme case, the words also relate to the believer’s readiness and willingness to say a word for Christ, to be willing to identify ourselves, among unbelievers, as a follower of Christ.

How sad for one of us to be ashamed of the One who died to save us. Yet surely we can all think of times when the “fear of man” (Prov. 29:25) caused us to hold our tongues, and miss an opportunity to reflect praise and honour to the Lord. John addresses this concern in his first epistle.

“Little children, abide in Him [maintain your fellowship with Christ, through a holy walk, and confession of sin], that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28).

May the Lord give each of us the grace to be faithful “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:2), and “be ready to give a defence [an answer] to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us]” (I Pet. 3:15).

CH-1) Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man, ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?

CH-4) Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heav’n depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.

CH-5) Ashamed of Jesus! yes, I may
When I’ve no guilt to wash away;
No tear to wipe, no good to crave,
No fears to quell, no soul to save.

CH-6) Till then, nor is my boasting vain,
Till then I boast a Saviour slain;
And O, my this my glory be,
That Christ is not ashamed of me!

1) What is your understanding of the application and intent of Mark 8:38?

2) What can we do to insure that we are faithful in living and speaking for Christ when opportunities arise?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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