Huw Priday, Here Is Love Vast As the Ocean

Huw Priday does a masterful job on a hymn I have recently grown to adore. The infinite love of our God is amazing, and it’s seen perfectly and fully on the mount of crucifixion. Glory.

(HT: Dustan Chevalier, via Facebook)

Hymn Text (by William Reese):

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

Quick Hits (8/12/08)

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts and links for your consideration, including bits about Matt Hoskinson, The Solid Rock, homeschooling, how sanctification is like building boats, and a crazy YouTube link:

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Pray for Matt Hoskinson…and Grow with Him

Matt Hoskinson’s cancer journal has been extremely encouraging to me. Matt has been intentionally devotional, focusing more on spiritual than medical matters. I commend it to you, and I encourage you to pray consistently for Matt and his family.

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Michael Bird on George Ladd

Michael Bird’s synopsis and review of a new biography on George Ladd is a fascinating read. Give it a look.

(HT: Joe T)

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Teach People to Long for the Sea!

David Powlison recently cited the following quote from French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which I believe is very germane to believers provoking one another to godliness:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Continue reading

Utter Despair, Then Utter Triumph!

We who know the glories of Resurrection Sunday are prone to underestimate the utter despair that preceded it some 2000 years ago. As far as I can tell, while Christ’s lifeless body lay in the grave there wasn’t a single person on earth who anticipated his resurrection. As far as humanity was concerned, Christ’s life was a disappointment, a complete failure.

  • The crowds that once cheered Him had turned on Him and demanded His death.
  • His own disciples abandoned Him. One betrayed him to His enemies; all others forsook Him and ran for cover; their “class president” denied Him three times.
  • He had become a public spectacle—mocked, spit upon, brutally beaten, then crucified, probably unclothed.
  • His enemies had won a compelling victory, obtaining His death, then gloating at the foot of His cross.
  • He died, and His disciples mourned, most in hiding. The few who remain gave Him a hasty though respectful burial.
  • Finally, there were two days of despair, during which the only mention of His prophesied resurrection was made by unbelieving but suspicious Jews. (Matt 27:62-63) Even the most faithful of his followers came to the tomb early Sunday morning expecting to embalm Him, not embrace Him. (Mark 16:1-3) Continue reading

Doctrinal Precision and “Come, Thou Savior of Our Race”

One of the blogs I frequent highlighted this poem by Ambrose of Milan (originally written in Latin as Veni Redemptor Gentium) as a Christmas meditation worthy of reflection. From what I can gather, this particular version was translated into German by Martin Luther, then translated from German into English by Lutheran W. M. Reynolds. Several other versions are available (1, 2, 3). This version effectively pointed me Christ-ward, and I’m glad it was posted. However, upon reading it a second and third time, two lines struck me as being less than orthodox. Can you find the lines that concerned me? Could you sing them?

Come, Thou Savior of our race,
Choicest Gift of heav’nly grace!
O Thou blessèd virgin’s Son,
Be Thy race on earth begun,
Be Thy race on earth begun.

Not of mortal blood or birth,
He descends from Heaven to earth;
By the Holy Ghost conceived,
God and man by us believed,
God and man by us believed.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in Heaven enthroned,
Still to be in Heaven enthroned

From the Father forth He came,
And returneth to the same;
Captive leading death and hell—
High the song of triumph swell,
High the song of triumph swell!

Equal to the Father now,
Though to dust Thou once didst bow,
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see,
When shall we its glories see?

(Note: I found two different versions ascribed to Reynolds, so I’m not certain which he wrote).

(Disclaimer: I make no claim to speak with authority on matters of church history, hymnology or Latin. In other words, I’m a hack, dealing only with this translation of a translation. Anyone able to shed more light on this hymn is encouraged to do so.)

Carol of Joy, a Pastor, and a Poet

I’m a pastor who writes hymns on occasion. I do this because I enjoy the creative outlet; because it’s an extremely edifying exercise to turn spiritual concepts over in my mind looking for just the right word, and therefore really contemplating what a doctrine or text means; because I think having fresh expressions of biblical truth for worship is a good thing. However, my songs tend to be rhyming sermons. In my estimation, they have all the subtlety of a jackhammer. They are lessons, and if they make people think of biblical doctrine, I’m thrilled.

But I think this is true: I’m much more pastor than poet. Eileen Berry is a poet. Consider her beautiful portrayal of human need and divine salvation in Carol of Joy:

Green leaves all fallen, withered and dry;
Brief sunset fading, dim winter sky.
Lengthening shadows, Dark closing in…
Then, through the stillness, carols begin!

Oh fallen world, to you is the song—
Death holds you fast and night tarries long.
Jesus is born, your curse to destroy!
Sweet to your ears, a carol of Joy!

Pale moon ascending, solemn and slow;
Cold barren hillside, shrouded in snow;
Deep, empty valley veiled by the night;
Hear angel music—hopeful and bright!

Oh fearful world, to you is the song—
Peace with your God, and pardon for wrong!
Tidings for sinners, burdened and bound—
A carol of joy! A Saviour is found!

Earth wrapped in sorrow, lift up your eyes!
Thrill to the chorus filling the skies!
Look up sad hearted—witness God’s love!
Join in the carol swelling above!

Oh friendless world, to you is the song!
All Heaven’s joy to you may belong!
You who are lonely, laden, forlorn—
Oh fallen world! Oh friendless world!
To you,
A Saviour is born!

Reflect on that imagery for a while. Think about it. Muse on the picture of the lost world in spiritual winter being contrasted with the warm hope offered by Christ. Even better, consider the simultaneously subtle and pleading invitation for the fallen, fearful, and friendless world to embrace the Savior. Beautiful.

Once you’ve digested the text, listen to it sung here. Dan Forrest has provided for it a setting that matches the text turn for turn, capturing its tragedy and triumph, despair and hope. The music is stunning; I almost want to say haunting.

That’s good stuff. Again, think about it. I didn’t appreciate the nuance of the piece until I had read it and heard it several times. Nice.

As I said, I’m a pastor. I could probably improve as a poet, and I should. Preaching with thought-provoking images and carefully-chosen words is a good thing, or at least can be if it sheds light on the biblical text and doesn’t get in its way. Furthermore, part of the secret of fine (or even just useful) poetry boils down to effort—refusing to “settle.” (So Eileen tells me.) Of course, that’s not to say there’s not a God-given “knack” that factors into it, as well, but diligence goes a long way.

On the other hand, I could probably work long and hard at the sort of imagery Eileen has captured in Carol of Joy and not succeed. That’s okay. I’m fine with writing explicit “sermons in song.” There’s a place for truth that slaps you in the face rather than subtly sneaking up on you, especially for congregational singing. But that said, I sure admire the work of a real poet.

This is a great Christmas meditation. Thanks, Eileen. And thanks, Dan.

All Praise to Thee

The body of TCBC has enjoyed F. Bland Tucker’s All Praise to Thee. The hymn is a rich meditation on Christ’s humility and exaltation from Philippians 2. We’ve sung the text to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sine Nomine (often associated with For All the Saints), and it fits beautifully. I commend it to you for your private and corporate worship!

(I’ve removed the excellent text because I believe it is copyrighted. I’d encourage you to find it and utilize it legally via CCLI or another means.)

His Robes for Mine

Update: The reworked text has been joined to an inspiring and original tune by Greg Habegger. A pdf of the new song and a MIDI sample can be accessed from here.

We Are Heirs of God Almighty

We introduced Stuart Townend’s new hymn We Are Heirs of God Almighty to TCBC this morning. It is a tremendous text, rejoicing in each member of the Trinity and in our relationship to them. I especially love how it connects our worship of God with our every-day obedience–worship in all of life! We often praise God for what He has done, or we make promises to Him about what we will do. This hymn, however, rejoices in what God is continually doing in the life of the believer (especially in verses 2-3). We rarely sing praise to God for producing fruit in our lives or for helping us to deny our fleshly desires. I think Townsend is on to something!

The tune which Townend recommends and which we used is the majestic Austria by Franz Joseph Haydn. Glorious!

We are heirs of God Almighty,
Apple of the Father’s eye;
Free, forgiven, loved, accepted,
Clothed in righteousness divine.
Chosen to be pure and blameless
From before the world began;
Grace for every situation,
Sheltered in the Father’s hand.

We have Christ at work within us,
Shaping us to be like Him;
Resurrection power sustaining
Freedom from the snares of sin.
Saying no to flesh desires,
Saying yes to righteous ways;
Filled with passion and with power,
Lights that burn in darkened days.

We’ve the Spirit without measure,
Helper, Comforter and Guide;
One who brings the gifts of heaven,
One who comes to walk beside.
Taste of heaven’s endless pleasure,
Guarantee of what’s to come;
Causing fruit to grow in action,
Bringing glory to the Son.

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness is a hymn I’ve only recently come to appreciate, though I’m not proud of that fact. It is teeming with biblical doctrine, and I especially appreciate this point: it celebrates both Christ’s blood which takes away our unrighteousness and His righteousness which provides for us the righteousness we lack. It worships Christ for both his passive and active obedience. It recognizes that Christ’s vicarious life was as necessary for our salvation as Christ’s vicarious death, and we don’t consider that truth enough. We need His righteousness no less than we need His blood. As one of the verses states, “Jesus hath lived, hath died for me.” Both are essential to our salvation.

Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
my beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in thy great day;
for who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am
from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

The holy, meek, unspotted Lamb,
Who from the Father’s bosom came,
Who died for me, e’en me to atone,
Now for my Lord and God I own.

When from the dust of death I rise
to claim my mansion in the skies,
even then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me.

Jesus, be endless praise to thee,
whose boundless mercy hath for me
for me a full atonement made,
an everlasting ransom paid.

O let the dead now hear thy voice;
now bid thy banished ones rejoice;
their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness.

As you might expect, the following verse is omitted from many hymnals:

Lord, I believe were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.

My only beauty and dress is Christ’s righteousness, for there is no good thing in me; I’m fully absolved from my sin, my fear, my guilt, my shame; atonement has been fully made; thus I stand boldly in the presence of God, claiming the blood and righteousness of Christ.

Wonderful!

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More good stuff: Derek Thomas provides a brief biographical sketch of the hymn’s author here.

“And Now I Hate My Sin”

In the second of Albert N. Martin’s excellent sermons on repentance he mentions a hymn text by John Newton that I was able to find. It has some powerful lines and images describing his rebellion against God, his repentance, and his desire to serve the Savior. I’m especially struck by his description of the goodness of God (vs. the terror of God) leading him to repentance in verses 1, 3 and 4. And oh, that the view of a bleeding Savior would indeed make us hate our sin (v. 4)!

The song’s meter is unusual (8.8.6.8.8.6), but it can be sung to a tune entitled Ariel if the last line is repeated.

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Lord, thou hast won, at length I yield,
My heart, by mighty grace compelled,
Surrenders all to thee;
Against thy terrors long I strove,
But who can stand against thy love?
Love conquers even me. Continue reading

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