A Solemn Covenant with God and His Church

RPC

 

Before I became a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 2005, I had been a Southern Baptist pastor for right at twenty-five years. I had always been as diligent as possible to make sure that people understood what it meant to be a Christian before they became a member of the church of which I was the pastor. I did not want it to be as Grady Nutt once described, “I’m glad that you have come, sit here on the front row, and here is your box of offering envelopes.”

One thing that I have appreciated about the PCA is the time the session takes when people desire to become members of the church, at least at Reformed Presbyterian Church. Of course, there is no process that is foolproof, but eternity is a very long time, and we want to make sure that those desiring membership truly understand the Gospel and have a “credible profession of faith.” After ascertaining as much as humanly possible the sincere nature of the professions of the new members, they are asked to take their membership vows. Every time I hear them, I am reminded of the importance of being a living part of the visible church of Jesus Christ.

All of you being here present to make a public profession of faith, are to assent to the following declarations and promises, by which you enter into a solemn covenant with God and His Church.

  1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
  1. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
  1. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
  1. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship andwork to the best of your ability?
  1. Do you submit yourselves to the government and disciplineof the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

Lord willing, over the next few days I will touch on the meaning of each of these vows.

Tuesday Hymns: “Mighty God, While Angels Bless You”

Robert Robinson (September 27, 1735 – June 9, 1790) was a Congregationalist pastor of the Baptist persuasion (although he considered himself an evangelical Methodist for a short period of time after hearing George Whitfield preach in the 1750s) who ministered at the Stone-Yard Baptist Chapel, in Cambridge for the last thirty years of his life. There are those who believe he became a Unitarian late in his life although the evidence of such a fall is inconclusive.

He is recognized today as the author of two popular hymns; first, the very well-known, “Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing,” and our Tuesday Hymn for this week, “Mighty God, While Angels Bless You,” which consists of six verses spelling out some of the countless reasons why our glorious Lord is deserving of praise. It is sung to the tune, ALLELUIA, by Albert Lowe.

Mighty God, while angels bless thee,
May a mortal sing thy name?
Lord of men as well as angels,
Thou art every creature’s theme.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Lord of every land and nation,
Ancient of eternal days,
Sounded through the wide creation
Be thy just and lawful praise.

For the grandeur of thy nature,
Grand beyond the seraph’s thought;
For created works of power,
Works with skill and kindness wrought.

But thy rich, thy free redemption,
Dark through brightness all along,
Thought is poor, and poor expression,
Who dare sing that awful song?

Brightness of the Father’s glory,
Shall thy praise unuttered lie?
Fly, my tongue, such guilty silence,
Sing the Lord who came to die:

From the highest throne in glory,
To the cross of deepest woe,
All to ransom guilty captives,
Flow my praise, for ever flow
.”

Tuesday Hymns: “Come, Thou Almighty King”

We Presbyterians are often chided because we like to sing all the verses of the hymns during corporate worship. Growing up as a Baptist it was not unusual to leave out a verse of a hymn, usually the third, prompting comedian Grady Nutt to once remark, “I am as lonely as the third verse in a Baptist hymnbook.”

Our Tuesday Hymn is a prime example of why leaving out a verse is not necessarily a good idea. Come, Thou Almighty King is a great hymn of praise to the Triune God. Verse one praises the “Father, all glorious,” verse two praises “Thou Incarnate Word,” verse three praises the “Holy Comforter,” and the last verse praises the “Great One in Three.” How many times in our churches has the Holy Spirit been left out of this great hymn of praise to save an extra 30 seconds?

We do not know who wrote this hymn (no, it was probably not Charles Wesley) but I will be forever grateful for his succinct and direct hymn praising the Triune God. It is sung to the tune, TRINITY.

Come, Thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing, help us to praise. Father, all glorious, o’er all victorious, come and reign over us, Ancient of Days.

Come, Thou Incarnate Word, gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend. Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy Word success; Spirit of holiness, on us descend.

Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour. Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart, and ne’er from us depart, Spirit of pow’r.

To the great One in Three eternal praises be, hence evermore. His sovereign majesty may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore.