Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Gospel, difficult to understand, but plain enough to do so

Amy is writing a paper for her Romans class. Namely, a paper on Romans 3, which, as I keep reminding her, is the first stop on the Romans Road. As she often does, she asked me for a hymn to start her paper, but with these specifications—that it describe telling about the gospel as plain and simple to understand, but that it also discusses the complexity of the same. My instant thought was of "Tell Me the Story of Jesus," but that wasn't it. Then I thought of "Tell Me the Old, Old Story," but that also doesn't do it. In fact, I've completely drawn a blank, even after searching around for a while. I've found a ton of hymns that talk about the simplicity of the gospel, and a ton that talk about its complexity, but 'never the twain shall meet.' What have I forgotten? Is there such a hymn? And if not, would anyone be interested in writing some words I could set to music?

That aside, my favorite option was Charles Wesley's "And Can It Be," although it was vetoed by Amy—not that she doesn't like it, just that it wasn't what she was looking for. I had forgotten that it has 6 verses, but several of my older hymnals had them all. We really miss a lot by leaving some of them out, even though it is a longer hymn. It's such a rousing tune, though, singing 6 verses wouldn't bother me. Granted, it's probably in my top 5 of all hymns. And, apparently I'm not alone.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Although some of my more reformed friends have said to me, "The Wesleys—bad theology, good hymns," I'd have to disagree. You can't have one without the other, and this hymn is a good case for their symbiosis. It draws on so much biblical imagery, it's almost difficult to name it all. There's a discussion of the hymn's doctrine here.

4 comments:

Pastor Michael Jordan said...

Hey Lance--I love And Can It Be? as well. Grew up singing it, especially when we'd visit grandparents in the world's smallest college town, Houghton, NY. Didn't know the fifth verse of the six you'd posted, though.

Some (including Erik Routley) think Sagina is not a good tune for it, but I like it.

I'll have to think about your (Amy's) hymn dilemma some more, though. That's a tough one!

Mike Jordan

Anonymous said...

On 'And can it be'- I've always thought it ironic that verse 4 came from a Wesley. I can't think of a better hymn for expressing Christ's saving work in operation towards the individual.

On a hymn that speaks both of the simplicity and complexity of the Gospel - 'I know whom I have believed' (alternating between gospel mysteries and simple trust in the Savior).

And on Romans - I encourage Amy to read from F.F. Bruce's 'Tyndale' commentary the section of his 'Introduction' entitled 'VIII The Influence of Romans' (in the second/revised [1985] edition, pg. 56-58).

<>< Ron Troup- rltroup@netzero.net

Lance said...

I thought "I Know Whom I Have Believed" was a great idea, but, alas, it didn't work for Amy. She says she's looking for a hymn that would encapsulate her thought in a single verse, or just a few lines. I told her she's going to have to write one.

Lance said...

Amy decided to go with "I Know Whom I Have Believed," so, thanks Ron!