Posted by: rcottrill | March 14, 2018

At Calvary

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: William Reed Newell (b. May 22, 1868; d. Apr. 1, 1956)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: William Newell was a pastor, a popular Bible teacher, and the author of three great commentaries on Romans, Hebrews, and Revelation. He also served for a time as the assistant superintendent of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Many years ago I met his son Philip, who also became an author and Bible teacher. The story of how the father wrote the present song is found in the first Wordwise Hymns link.

Irish composer Michael William Balfe (1808-1870) wrote many operas. But The Bohemian Girl, created in 1843, may be the only one remembered today. And of all the fine music in it, only one aria continues to be performed by the world’s great sopranos.

The opera presents a love story involving a young man named Thaddeus, and a poor gypsy girl named Arline. And early in the second act Arline sings to Thaddeus a hauntingly beautiful song about a dream she’s had. The gist of the song is that though, in her dream, she’s fabulously rich, and famous, and admired by all, the thing that matters most to her is the love of her beloved Thaddeus. She sings:

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls
With vassals and serfs at my side,
And of all who assembled within those walls
That I was the hope and the pride.
I had riches all too great to count
And a high ancestral name.
But I also dreamt which pleased me most
That you loved me still the same,
That you loved me,
You loved me still the same.

Beautiful! However, let’s turn that dream-scene on its head. Because it was a dream. Here was someone with wealth and social standing and widespread popularity. And later in the aria Arline speaks of the many eager suitors who sought her hand. Everything was perfect. But that’s not me, that’s not us–spiritually, I mean. And here we must confront the nasty subject of sin.

It’s a deep-set spiritual pollution corrupting us all. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Though, strange to say, I talked to a man long ago who claimed he’d reached a state of sinless perfection, and hadn’t sinned in seventeen years! I knew him well enough to be assured that was nonsense. Anyone who thinks that probably has a very low idea of what sin is.

Not committing murder or armed robbery is one thing. Most of us can feel pretty superior if we think sin is confined to such outward acts. But what of the inner poison of pride and selfishness, greed and covetousness (which God calls a form of idolatry, Col. 3:5), or lust, or envy, or impatience, or hatred and a vengeful spirit? Even seemingly tiny, hidden offenses, all matter to a holy God. They cut us off from fellowship with Him (Isa. 59:2), and will keep us out of heaven (Rev. 21:27).

The theologians have their definitions of sin, and we need those. But it may be worthwhile to talk about it in a way that helps us feel the revulsion God has toward it. Sin is like a vile putrefying sore, a loathsome, seeping cancer on the soul. It’s like rotting garbage in our hearts the foul stench of which can cling to all we do and say.

That’s a picture of you and me before a holy God–and it’s no dream. But, oh! Wait! A glorious truth! To paraphrase Balfe’s song, “I’ve also learned, what pleased me most, that He loved me [and you] still the same!”

Incredible as it seems, God’s own Word assures us of it. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 8:8). “For 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).

An old gospel song by William Newell says it.

CH-1) Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
On Calvary.

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.

CH-4) Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!

Questions:
1) What do people often think they have to do to claim God’s salvation?

2) Why are these methods all doomed to fail?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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