Posted by: rcottrill | March 31, 2017

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

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Words: Tullius Clinton O’Kane (b. Mar. 10, 1830; d. Feb. 12, 1912)
Music: Tullius Clinton O’Kane

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: I came across this song in a rather unusual way. I was reading one of Dorothy Sayers mystery stories called Strong Poison. In it, her detective hero, Lord Peter Wimsey quotes the refrain of the hymn:

Sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

The “New Jerusalem” is a name for the heavenly city where God dwells (Rev. 21:2). The hymn is speaking of the death of believers, and how the sufferings of this life, either the kind that come through illness (stanza 3), or persecution (stanza 4), will all be behind us in heaven (stanza 5). But it is his reference to children who come to Christ that I focus on here (stanza 2). Their deaths were an even more familiar sorrow a century and more ago, before the development of new drugs and medical techniques to save them.

Tullius O’Kane was a genial teacher and school principal in Ohio. He also wrote quite a number of hymns, sometimes both words and music. As noted, one stanza of this one affirms the capability of young children to trust in the Saviour and have a meaningful relationship with Him. I can affirm that myself, having come to Christ at the age of seven.

One cold, blustery day O’Kane had occasion to go from his residence to the railroad depot, about a mile distant, and in his route had to cross the river on a suspension foot-bridge. As he came down to the bridge, he thought of “the river of death,” so cold, with no bridge except what the Lamb of God has done for us (Jn. 1:29).

Then, he says, the words of the dying Cookman came to his mind, and he exclaimed to himself: “Who, who are these beside the chilly wave?” Words, melody and refrain seemed to come all at once and all together, so that by the time he arrived back at his home, the composition was complete. The reference to “Cookman” speaks of a Methodist pastor named Alfred Cookman (1828-1871) who, when he lay dying, spoke of “sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem.”

Children are amazing. Take Alexandra Scott, for example. Alex was born in 1996. Then, just before her first birthday she was diagnosed with cancer. Four years later, in spite of failing health, she decided to open a lemonade stand, to raise money to help children with cancer. That year, with the help of her older brother, she raised two thousand dollars. And it became an annual event for the family.

Alex finally succumbed to cancer, and died in 2004. But, inspired by what she’d done, others set up their own lemonade stands. Participation in that project has continued to spread, and $120 million has been raised for the cause to date, all because one little girl got an idea, and followed through with it.

Yes, children are amazing. However Jesus’ disciples seemed to think that dealing with children was a waste of the Master’s time. They tried to keep them away from Him (Mk. 10:13). But “He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God’” (vs. 14). The Apostle Peter seems to have learned the lesson. In his first sermon after the birth of the church, he appealed “to you and your children” (Acts. 2:39).

The Lord admired the simple trust of the young, and their desire to please God, considering that to be an example to those who are older. To lift a verse out of its original context, sometimes it’s true that “a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6). Christ also warned of severe judgment faced by any who would mistreat a child who trusted in Him (Matt. 18:1-6).

Children are capable of strong faith, and a life-changing commitment to the Lord. Two examples of this come from the country of Wales.

Mary Jones (1784-1864), in her early teens, learned to love the Word of God. She longed to study the Scriptures more thoroughly, but Bibles were scare where she lived. One copy was passed around from home to home, but that meant long gaps between each person’s reading and study. To get a Bible of her own, Mary walked 26 miles (42 km) barefoot, to where she could obtain one. The pastor who met her was inspired by her zeal. He became deeply concerned about the need for more copies of God’s Word, and worked to meet it. Four years later, the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed to send Bibles around the world.

Fast forward a hundred years. A pastor stood before a group and asked, “What does Jesus Christ mean to you?” “He’s the hope of the world,” one responded. “But that’s not what I’m asking,” said the pastor. “What does he mean to you?” Finally a little girl named Florie Evans spoke up. With deep fervour and sincerity she said, “I love the Lord Jesus with all of my heart.”

Those words stirred the hearts of those present, and God used little Florie’s testimony to begin a great spiritual awakening called the Welsh Revival (1904-1905). More than one hundred thousand put their faith in Christ, churches were packed for years to come, and whole towns were transformed. The special working of God’s Spirit eventually spread across Britain, into Europe, and over to America.

There are many other examples of such things. The sincere faith of a child has had an impact on many in different ways. O’Kane’s hymn speaks of them in his second stanza as among the redeemed in Glory. All who will be there are blood-washed saints of God.

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6, NKJV).

CH-1) Who, who are these beside the chilly wave,
Just on the borders of the silent grave,
Shouting Jesus’ power to save,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Sweeping through the gates of the new Jerusalem,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb,
Sweeping through the gates of the new Jerusalem,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

CH-2) These, these are they who, in their youthful days,
Found Jesus early, and in wisdom’s ways
Proved the fullness of His grace,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

CH-5) Safe, safe upon the ever shining shore,
Sin, pain, and death, and sorrow are all o’er;
Happy now and evermore,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

1) Do you know a child whose faith is an inspiration to adults around?

2) What characteristics of that faith have you observed which are a lesson to all?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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