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In Praise of Hymns

OK, so this will be a rare Scripture-less post to give a shout out to hymns, which so eloquently express the story of Scripture:

One of the many high moments of my week at the PCA General Assembly in Nashville was a Hymn Sing at the Ryman. Earlier in the evening, a member of Indelible Grace, Jeremy Casella, explained his need and affection for the hymns with a memory from college. He had gone to a worship service with friends where everyone around him seemed to be feeling something that he wasn’t, able to sing words of delight that he couldn’t, and experiencing a Christianity that did not seem compatible with life as he knew it. He said, “The Gospel deals with reality and my life is saturated in reality. There are so many worship songs that don’t seem to reflect reality.” He went on to say that his appreciation of the hymns came as he saw that they refelcted the message of the Gospel which allows for doubt, weak faith, moral failure, deep pain and yet hope, trust and ultimate glory to the One writing the story of redemption which includes all these things. As Kevin Twit, the leader of Indelible Grace commented, “I have a great need for Jesus and a great Jesus for my need. The hymns reflect both. Styles can change (and often should), but the content of the Gospel never does.”

Here are a couple of the many that particulary struck me this week: I Asked The Lord by John Newton, 1779

I asked the Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every grace Might more of His salvation know And seek more earnestly His face

Twas He who taught me thus to pray And He I trust has answered prayer But it has been in such a way As almost drove me to despair

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part

Yea more with His own hand He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, Cast out my feelings, laid me low

Lord why is this, I trembling cried Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death? “Tis in this way” The Lord replied “I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

And a longer time favorite: O Love That Will Not Let Me Go by George Mattheson, 1882

O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way, I yield my flick’ring torch to thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray, That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.

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