faith · life

at the cross

My Love and my df girl, along with a man from our church on cajon, lead the music portion of our worship on Sunday mornings.  We sing a mix of old and new songs, each with its own beauty and merit.  Last week, we sang this beautiful old hymn by Isaac Watts:

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?

Refrain:
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.

Isaac Watts was truly gifted.  From a very young age he wrote poetry and studied languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew and French); later he attended university and became a tutor then a pastor in 1702.

His disdain for the music of his day was reflected in his comment:

“To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.”*

His father challenged him to come up with something else.  The churches of the day accused his music of being uninspired for lack of Scripture.  He responded with this:

“…if we can pray to God in sentences that we have made up ourselves (instead of confining ourselves to the Our Father and other prayers taken directly from the Scriptures), then surely we can sing to God in sentences that we have made up ourselves.”

I have found a few different numbers, but the general consensus is that he wrote in the ballpark of five hundred to six hundred hymns in his lifetime, most between the ages of twenty and twenty-two.  Often, they were written to accompany a sermon. Among his many hymns we find: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and, of course, “At the Cross.”

Originally entitled “Godly Sorrow Arising From the Sufferings of Christ,” this hymn had six stanzas and no refrain.  No one seems to know the tune that Isaac Watts had intended for this piece of poetry, but in 1800 Hugh Wilson began using his composition called “Martyrdom” and the refrain was add a few years later by Ralph F. Hudson.

In the early 1850’s, Fanny Crosby answered an altar call at a revival meeting while this piece was playing.  Her testimony of the moment is this:

“…it seemed to me that the light must indeed come then or never; and so I arose and went to the altar alone. After a prayer was offered, they began to sing the grand old consecration hymn, ‘Alas, and did my Saviour bleed, And did my Sovereign die?’ And when they reached the third line of the fourth stanza, ‘Here Lord, I give myself away,’ my very soul was flooded with a celestial light. I sprang to my feet, shouting ‘hallelujah,’ and then for the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.”

As we know, she went on to pen thousands of hymns!

All of this is a segue into my response to this particular hymn that morning.  I have sung this song many a-time, but one line stood out to me that morning:

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

I blush.  I duck beneath the shame of my sin.  Not just the past, from the days before I knew Him.  No, the sin that rears its ugly head day by day.  The sins that still plague me and cause me to shudder in disgrace.  Perhaps, to some, they may seem insignificant in terms of severity as far as sins go, but they are egregious all the same.  As I respond to life in ungodly ways, His cross appears before me and I am reminded of the cost.

At the cross. In His mercy, Christ bore my sins on His own body, He who is perfect, took the full punishment for my sins.  He did this willingly.  He did so because of His great love for me and for you.

“But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8

My heart is broken by the recognition of His great gift to me and I am thankful.  I dissolve into tears for all He has done and all that He is doing in my life.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.

I cannot repay this debt.  The good news is I don’t have to!  It is the gift of God!

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23

However, as an outpouring of my gratitude and love for Him, I can give my heart to Him, all of myself to Him.

May I, like Fanny Crosby, recognize my duplicity when I try to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other. May I hold nothing back from the One who gave all.

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*Christianity Today

 

Sharing here:

Coffee for Your Heart at Holley Gerth
#breakthrulinkup 35 at Breakthrough Homeschooling

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