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Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)
Note: Published in 1843, as the Cyber Hymnal notes, “This is believed to be Bonar’s first hymn [of 600 he wrote]. He later apologized for it, saying, ‘It might be good gospel, but it is not good poetry.’” As to the tune, we also use Aurelia for The Church’s One Foundation.
As I write this, we have recently come through a Federal Election here in Canada. Now a different political party is in power. And if things run true to form, we’ll soon be hearing–perhaps for several years–that everything wrong with the country is the fault of the previous government. Old habits die hard, and the blame game has been in vogue almost since the beginning of time.
When our first parents sinned (Gen. 2:17; 3:6), and the Lord confronted them, Adam quickly blamed Eve. After all, she was the one who gave him the forbidden fruit to eat. But he went a step further, audaciously hinting that God was at fault too for giving him his partner (“the woman You gave me” (Gen. 3:12). Eve then passed the buck to the devil who, in the guise of a serpent, had tempted them (vs. 13). But God held them all responsible.
There are two sides to the coin–not me…him/her instead. We try to divest ourselves of responsibility by putting it elsewhere. How often have you seen signs that say, “We are not responsible for any loss or damage to your property [implying you are, for trusting them with it].” Whether it’s your winter coat at the cleaners, or your car in a parking lot, the owners do not want to be held accountable for anything going wrong–though, in fact, they may well be.
Why do we do it? It’s an attempt to preserve our good image, before God, before others, and even to ourselves. It’s no fun carrying a load of guilt. Even when we are held accountable, and pushed to apologize, we may try to blunt the force of this with all too familiar qualifications. “I was at fault, but you were too.” Or, “It was wrong, but I wasn’t well at the time.” Or, “It was an accident.” Or, “I couldn’t help it.” (You can likely supply other statements along a similar line.)
However, when it comes to sin, each one of us stands guilty before God. “We know that whatever the law [God’s holy Word] says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God….All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:19, 23).
God sees and knows not only our outward actions, but our inner motivations as well. As David the psalmist puts it:
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Ps. 139:1-4).
But something wonderful happened at the cross. There, the sinless Son of God was crucified and died, enduring the wrath of God–not for His own sins, because He had none (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22). No, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
Please look at that last text again. Christ bore cruel treatment from whom? From us. We did it. We are to blame. By proxy, it was we sinners who abused and crucified Him. But a gracious God turned our wicked actions around and used them for our good. Christ bore the punishment for our sins, so that we, through faith in Him, might be cleansed and forgiven. Amazing!
It brings to mind a hymn by the great Scottish pastor and hymn writer Horatius Bonar, which takes its title from the opening line–“I lay my sins on Jesus.” In one sense, that is not true. It was God the Father who laid all our sins on Jesus. Isaiah 53:6 says it. “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” But that may not be what Dr. Bonar was saying. What God did at the cross has the potential of saving us, but it must be personally and individually applied.
In that sense, the statement is correct. If we are to receive God’s eternal salvation, there must come a time we say, as individuals, “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Like the Israelite of old with his sacrifice, we lay our hand, by faith, in the Christ of Calvary, and identify His death as for our sins (cf. Lev. 1:4). Recognizing that Jesus died for me is, in a way, personally attributing His death to my sins.
CH-1) I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us from the accursèd load;
I bring my guilt to Jesus, to wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious, till not a stain remains.
CH-3) I rest my soul on Jesus, this weary soul of mine;
His right hand me embraces, I on His breast recline.
I love the name of Jesus, Immanuel, Christ, the Lord;
Like fragrance on the breezes His name abroad is poured.
CH-4) I long to be like Jesus, strong, loving, lowly, mild;
I long to be like Jesus, the Father’s holy child:
I long to be with Jesus, amid the heavenly throng,
To sing with saints His praises, to learn the angels’ song.
1) Have you laid your sins on Jesus in this personal way, and trusted in Christ for salvation?
2) If not, why not now? And if so, what are some of the differences this has made in your life?