Posted by: rcottrill | May 27, 2015

Nor Silver Nor Gold

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Words: James Martin Gray (b. May 11, 1851; d. Sept. 21, 1935)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)

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Note: This gospel song was written in 1900, during the time that Dr. Gray served as a teacher in the summer sessions of Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. In 1904, he was called to be dean of the school, and later became president–the office he held when my father was a student there. The hymn, as published today, is the same as the author wrote it, with one exception. Line two in CH-1 originally said, “No value on earth could have saved my poor soul.” The change seems to me to make the thought clearer.

CH-1) Nor silver nor gold hath obtained my redemption,
Nor riches of earth could have saved my poor soul;
The blood of the cross is my only foundation,
The death of my Saviour now maketh me whole.

I am redeemed, but not with silver,
I am bought, but not with gold;
Bought with a price, the blood of Jesus,
Precious price of love untold.

I can remember, many years ago, getting a haircut for twenty-five cents. And it’s startling to see the cost of other things from way back when. In 1950, a gallon of gasoline sold for around that same amount. A man could buy a suit for about thirty dollars, and a nice house could be purchased for under twenty thousand dollars. Now everything costs so much more.

Of course, we have to take into account that salaries were much lower back then. In 1950 the average salary was around three or four thousand dollars a year. That means that, in terms of purchasing power, there’s less of a disparity than might first appear. But in spite of the radical increase in both income and “out-go,” it’s still true that the rich can buy pretty much whatever they want, and the poor have to struggle to get by.

There’s another escalating factor that has complicated things in recent years. Planned obsolescence. In order to keep us buying more, things are purposely made cheaply and made not to last, and many can’t be repaired when they break down. Or, in the case of computers, new operating systems are incompatible with older programs. So we must discard outdated equipment and buy new.

These realities came to mind as I looked at this gospel song. It’s based on First Peter 1:18-19, which says:

“You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

In the Old Testament, the first Passover ceremony included the sacrifice of a lamb “without blemish” (Exod. 12:5). It symbolized the principle of an innocent substitute dying in place of the guilty sinner. The Lord Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of that picture. When He came on the scene He was introduced as, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), and “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7).

Our eternal salvation cannot be bought with money, or with good works, or with church membership or rituals either. In fact, it was paid for already at Calvary. Now, it’s a free gift of God, received by faith in our Saviour and what He did for us on the cross (Jn. 3:16). The purchase price was neither silver nor gold, but what the Apostle Peter calls “the precious [esteemed, as of great price] blood of Christ.”

Notice the things that Gray says have been dealt with through faith in the shed blood of Christ. The repeated emphasis is on our redemption. The blood of Christ paid the debt we owed and purchased us out of the slave market of sin. It also solved the problem of our guilt (CH-2), and removed the barrier to our access to God (CH-23), and provided an eternal future in heaven for us (CH-4).

CH-2) Nor silver nor gold hath obtained my redemption,
The guilt on my conscience too heavy had grown;
The blood of the cross is my only foundation,
The death of my Saviour could only atone.

CH-3) Nor silver nor gold hath obtained my redemption,
The holy commandment forbade me draw near;
The blood of the cross is my only foundation,
The death of my Saviour removeth my fear.

And what of the problem of planned obsolescence mentioned earlier? Will there ever come a time when the sacrifice of Christ is no longer sufficient, and we must look for some other Saviour? No, never! The Bible is quite clear about that. “This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

CH-4) Nor silver nor gold hath obtained my redemption,
The way into heaven could not thus be bought;
The blood of the cross is my only foundation,
The death of my Saviour redemption hath wrought.

1) What are some of the things people are mistakenly counting on to make them worthy of heaven?

2) What other hymns do you know and sing that speak of our Redeemer or His redemption?



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