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Words: Ralph Erskine Hudson (b. July 12, 1843; d. June 14, 1901)
Music: Ralph Erskine Hudson
Note: This sprightly gospel song was first published in 1892. It has a similar theme to Henry Alford’s more poetically elegant Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand.
For years they were the laughing stock of the league. The New York Mets baseball team had never had a winning season–never finished higher than ninth place. Their manager in the early years, Casey Stengel, called them “the Amazin’ Mets,” not because of how well they played, but because they always seemed to come up with new ways to lose.
Until the 1969 season. That year, to the astonishment of many, they won the World Series. Battling their way to the top, all through the season, they became “the Miracle Mets,” a symbol for all time of those who endure a long struggle, and are finally victorious.
There is, in that, a faint picture of the church of Jesus Christ. Referred to in the Bible as the spiritual body of Christ, a body of which He is the Head (Eph. 1:22-23), it was formed on the Day of Pentecost in AD 30, by a mighty work of the Spirit of God. “About a hundred and twenty” believers were gathered (Acts 1:15) in a loft, above the home of Mark’s parents (cf. Acts 12:12), which he describes for us as “a large upper room” (Mk. 14:15). There Jesus had previously celebrated Passover with His disciples.
That group of 120 was the nucleus, the beginning of the Christian church which, in spite of times of persecution and of apostasy, has continued to grow. The statistics today are staggering. There are over two billion people in the world who identify themselves as Christians. They are composed of a wide spectrum of groups and sects–some of which we would not classify as biblically orthodox. Nevertheless, the truly born again saints of God number in the many millions.
In nearly every nation on earth, there is a Christian witness. But not all are able to live out their faith in peace. In many lands, conversion to Christianity is forbidden, and gatherings of believers are illegal. It’s estimated that about 160,000 professing Christians are martyred each year for their faith–a woeful horror that goes largely unreported in the secular media. It is a beleaguered but thriving body.
Is it a perfect church? No, far from it–because it’s made up of very imperfect people. To borrow Stengel’s term, it’s “amazin’” the number of ways we can find to foul up. Samuel Stone’s great hymn, The Church’s One Foundation, describes it this way:
With a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed.
Too often troubled by false doctrine, internal conflict and division, and more, it’s nonetheless heroic, and faces a glorious future. Through the sacrifice of Christ, and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, the body of Christ is being prepared for what’s to come. Describing this, using the imagery of a suit of clothes in pristine condition, the Bible says:
“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
Ralph Erskine Hudson (1843-1901), an American Civil War veteran, was the author of many popular hymns. He was inspired by that wonderful future prospect to write the words and music of an encouraging gospel song about the church in heavenly glory.
CH-1) Do you hear them coming, brother,
Thronging up the steeps of light,
Clad in glorious shining garments,
Blood washed, garments pure and white?
’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb;
’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Take heart, Christian. Through the grace of God, and the blood of Christ, God’s Lamb, we’ll one day be victorious–and glorious (Rev. 7:14; 12:11)!
CH-4) Wave the banner, shout His praises,
For our victory is nigh!
We shall join our conqu’ring Saviour,
We shall reign with Him on high!
1) What do you believe is the greatest problem of the church today, its greatest hindrance to fulfilling its God-given mission?
2) What is “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26), and how does this prepare and equip the church for its present work?