Posted by: rcottrill | August 15, 2018

The Gate Ajar for Me

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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: Lydia Odell Baxter (b. Sept. 2, 1809; d. June 22, 1874)
Music: Silas Jones Vail (b. Oct. 6, 1818; d. May 20, 1883)

Wordwise Hymns (Lydia Baxter)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Though invalided and bedridden most of her adult life, Lydia Baxter was a glowing Christian. Her counsel was regularly sought by Christian leaders. Mrs. Baxter also gave us the beautiful hymn Precious Name (“Take the name of Jesus with you…”)

The word “ajar” refers to a door or a gate that’s slightly open. It comes from an expression six centuries old, on char, meaning on the turn, neither wide open nor completely closed. The term has produced a childhood riddle: When is a door not a door? Answer: When it is a jar.

Puns aside, the gate ajar provides a fitting picture of opportunity. The portal is not locked and barred. It invites our entry, it implies a welcome. This is touchingly illustrated by a story told by Britain’s Lord Shaftsbury (1801-1885). With its similarity to Jesus’ parable (Lk. 15:11-24), the following incident might be labeled The Prodigal Daughter.

Many years ago, a young woman left home and wandered from her parents’ love and spiritual values. But one day, she heard the gospel of God’s love for her, and was so changed by the message she resolved to return home. On reaching the house she discovered the door unfastened and ajar. She entered and climbed the stairs, and came upon her mother. She asked her, “How was it I found the door open?” The rejoicing woman answered, “My girl, that door has never been closed since you went away. I thought that some night my poor girl would return.”

There are many welcoming summonses from the Lord in the Scriptures, to enter mercy’s gate.

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’” (Isa. 1:18).

And consider the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink’” (Jn. 7:37).

This brings us to a song by hymn writer Lydia Baxter. Written about three years before her death, it expresses God’s welcoming mercy and forgiveness for all who will come to Him through faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Jn. 3:16). The refrain speaks joyously of the wonder of God’s grace.

CH-1) There is a gate that stands ajar,
And through its portals gleaming
A radiance from the cross afar,
The Saviour’s love revealing.

O depth of mercy! Can it be
That gate was left ajar for me?
For me! For me!
Was left ajar for me!

CH-2) That gate ajar stands free for all
Who seek through it salvation;
The rich and poor, the great and small,
Of every tribe and nation.

Evangelist Dwight Moody and his soloist and music director Ira Sankey were in Britain during 1873-74, and Baxter’s song was greatly used in their meetings. In one of these, held on New Year’s Eve, Maggie Lindsay, a young Scottish girl, heard it and prayed, “O heavenly Father, is it true that the gate is standing ajar for me? If it is so, I will go in.” And that evening she trusted Christ as her Saviour.

Her pastor was delighted to learn of her decision, and encouraged her to tell others at her school about it. She did so, and led several of them to faith in Christ. But less that a month after she came to Christ she was on board a train heading to her home when there was a terrible collision with another train. Several were killed, and Maggie was mortally injured. She was found with a blood-spattered song book in her hand, open to Lydia Baxter’s hymn. Carried to a nearby cottage, with her dying breath she sang the refrain, “For me! For me! / Was left ajar for me!”

Moved by the tragic event, Ira Sankey was inspired to write his first gospel song. In it he carried the symbol a step further, picturing the gate ajar as the entry into heaven.

1) Home at last, thy labour done,
Safe and blest, the vict’ry won;
Jordan passed, from pain set free,
Angels now have welcomed thee.

Depth of mercy, oh, how sweet,
Thus to rest at Jesus’ feet,
In yon world of light afar,
Safe within the gate ajar.

1) What opportunity is the Lord putting before you at the present time?

2) How will you respond to Him?

Wordwise Hymns (Lydia Baxter)
The Cyber Hymnal


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