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Words: attributed to Robert Boswell (b. _____, 1746; d. Apr. 1, 1804)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)
Note: The hymn Behold, What Love! is attributed to Scotsman Robert Boswell (1746-1804). Boswell served in a dissenting church (one that separated from the official Church of Scotland). Later, gospel musician James McGranahan (1840-1907) composed a joyful tune for the text. There is some confusion of origin in Hymnary.org. It seems as though there is another very similar hymn by another author, or possibly an adaptation of what is given below.
Making plans and acting on them often involves a consideration of the present, and long-range possibilities. But we may be wrong about the latter. For example, there are things we make or build that we expect will last for our lifetime or longer. The ship H.M.S. Titanic was like that. Built to withstand any maritime crisis, but it never even completed its maiden voyage, ending up at the bottom of the sea.
Then, regarding the present and the future, there’s an old expression that something must be done “now or never,” meaning there’s a narrow window of opportunity to take action. Perhaps it must be done immediately, because there may be no second chance for it. For instance, if you didn’t see Halley’s comet in 1986, you may not get another opportunity, because it isn’t scheduled to come around again until 2062.
But of course there are other things, particularly in the spiritual realm that, having begun now will continue forever. Becoming a child of God is like that. The Bible says, “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). “Most assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (Jn. 6:47).
Words such as everlasting and eternal are used dozens of times in God’s Word. Sometimes of God Himself (Ps. 90:2). Other times, of those who become children (or sons) of God. When we become His children, through faith in the Saviour, we have become “new creations” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), born again by the Spirit of God into His forever family. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Receiving God’s gift of salvation definitely has “now and ever” dimensions. There are things that are true of us today, and other things we’ve yet to experience that are a part of the umbrella word, salvation. The Apostle John speaks of that.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn. 3:1-3).
“Behold!” It’s a command. Take a look at the kind of love the Father has lavished on us. So strong, and full of grace. And what is the result? Now, we are “children of God.” It’s not something we hope happens when we get to heaven. It’s a blood relationship (through the cross of Christ) that Christians have now with God. “As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12).
Says John in the above passage, “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but…we shall be like Him.” That was the Creator’s plan in the beginning (Gen. 1:26-27), but sin and the fall intervened, and had to be dealt with. The “ever” or eternal aspect of the believer’s life involves a likeness to Christ, in the sense of having glorified resurrection bodies like His (Phil. 3:20-21). And it includes being finally perfected in moral character as well (Rom. 8:29-30). And though we are nowhere near fully Christlike in character now, it is something we should desire and strive for (vs. 3).
Using First John 3:1-3, Mr. Boswell deals in his opening two stanzas with the “now” of our Christian experience, then, in the latter two, with the “ever” aspect. There are many biblical allusions here. For example, in CH-2: “precious blood” (I Pet. 1:19); “brought near” (Eph. 2:13); “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).
CH-1) Behold, what love, what boundless love,
The Father hath bestowed
On sinners lost, that we should be
Now called “the sons of God!”
Behold, what manner of love!
What manner of love
The Father hath bestowed upon us,
That we, that we should be called,
Should be called the sons of God!
CH-2) No longer far from Him but now
By “precious blood” made nigh,
Accepted in the “Well-beloved,”
Near to God’s heart we lie.
In the second section, Boswell looks to the future of the child of God, showing how–as John himself does (I Jn. 3:3)–this should motivate us to live holy lives.
CH-3) What we in glory soon shall be,
It doth not yet appear;
But when our precious Lord we see,
We shall His image bear.
CH-4) With such a blessèd hope in view,
We would more holy be,
More like our risen, glorious Lord,
Whose face we soon shall see.
1) What did it cost God the Father to bring us into His family?
2) If we are going to be made perfectly holy one day, why bother worrying about that now? What are some reasons for not presuming on grace and living as we please?