Posted by: rcottrill | March 19, 2014

May the Grace of Christ

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Words: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21:1807)
Music: Sardis, arranged from Romance for Violin, Opus 40, Number 1, by Ludwig van Beethoven (b. Dec. 17, 1770; d. Mar. 26, 1827)

Wordwise Hymns (John Newton)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn, published in Olney Hymns, in 1779, surely ranks as one of the shortest in common use. It was originally composed as one eight-line stanza. But to suit tunes such as Sardis, it has been broken into two four-line stanzas.

Graphic May the Grace- NewtonHere is a copy of the hymn exactly as it appears in Olney Hymns. You’ll notice what seems to us an oddity, though it was common in the printing of that time. The lower case letter “s” looks quite a bit like our letter “f,” unless it appears at the end of a word. Thus, the word boundless looks like boundlefs, and possess like poffefs.

I also noticed that while Saviour is spelled with a “u” (as we Canadians are used to doing), the word favor is not.

These technicalities aside, this is a beautiful little hymn. Given that it is also doctrinally rich and practically useful, it’s unfortunate more hymnals don’t include it. As the title above the hymn indicates, it paraphrases the benediction found in Second Corinthians 13 verse 14:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of [or created by] the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

The hymn was written to be sung at the end of a Sunday service, or to conclude one of the cottage prayer meetings Newton established in the village of Olney. It is a Trinitarian hymn, referring to the three Persons of the Trinity and includes a quality to be identified with each–though certainly not to be thought of as exclusive to each.

1) The grace of Christ. Though grace was displayed in Old Testament times, a super-abundant flow of grace began with the coming of Christ. “Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace [grace heaped upon grace]. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:16-17).

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

2) The love of God the Father. It was the love of God that prompted Him to send His Son to be the Saviour desperately needed by a lost and dying world. “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).

“When the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7).

3) The favour of the Holy Spirit. Observe that the text speaks of “communion” (or fellowship). That is the “favour” of which Newton speaks, and he brings it in at line seven. As the Amplified Bible has it, it’s “the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together, and participation) in the Holy Spirit” that believers enjoy. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). And these are qualities upon with true Christian fellowship is based.

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).

May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon us from above.
Thus may we abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

By simply changing the pronouns, an interesting application of this hymn was provided for, many years after it was written. If third-person pronounces are used, it becomes a beautiful benediction hymn for the conclusion of a wedding ceremony. It becomes the congregation’s prayer for the newly married couple.

May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon them from above.
Thus may they abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

1) How sad that there are divisions and conflicts in many local churches, in spite of God’s provision for loving fellowship. What can we do to restore and maintain the latter?

2) Is this a hymn you would use in the services of the church or (in its revised form), at a wedding?

Wordwise Hymns (John Newton)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. And taking the thought of “changing the pronouns” one step further, “them” and “they” could be changed to “you” and “you,” — and those who make their own greeting cards — including wedding cards — would have a *lovely* prayer to include in a card. Or in a needlework pattern. Or in a poster or table decoration at a wedding reception.

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