Tuesday Hymns: “Great God, Whom Heaven, and Earth, and Sea”

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778) was an Anglican pastor who is probably best known for his beloved hymn, “Rock of Ages.” He has been accused of being an “extreme Calvinist” (probably because of his strong-worded criticism of the Wesley brothers), yet, his hymns often present the twin doctrines of the unfathomable glory of God, and His inexhaustible mercy to sinners. Our Tuesday Hymn for this week, “Great God, Whom Heaven, and Earth, and Sea,” is a description of God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness meet[ing],” and His “righteousness and peace kiss[ing] each other.” (Psalm 85:10)

The first and second verses speak of God’s sovereign authority over all of creation, and His wrath upon all who oppose Him, yet, the third and fourth verses speak of God as the “Prince of Peace” and of His universal “reign of love.” If an “extreme Calvinist” is one who calls upon all people to look to Christ alone, and to rest totally on His mercy and grace for the hope of their salvation, I wouldn’t mind being placed in that category. The hymn is sung to the tune, Mendon.

Great God, whom Heaven, and earth, and sea,
With all their countless hosts, obey;
Upheld by whom the nations stand,
And empires fall at Thy command.
 

Beneath Thy long suspended ire,
Let every antichrist expire;
Thy knowledge spread from sea to sea,
And distant nations bow to Thee.
 

Then show Thyself the Prince of Peace,
Command the din of war to cease;
With sacred love the world inspire,
And burn its chariots in the fire.
 

Let earth beneath Thy reign of love
A universal Sabbath prove:
Jesus her peaceful king adore,
And learn the act of war no more.

 

Tuesday Hymns: “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended”

When Johann Heermann (1585-1647) was a little boy he contracted a serious illness and his mother promised God that if He spared the boy’s life, she would educate him to become a pastor. She was true to her word, and after his ordination he taught at the university, then became a deacon, and eventually a Lutheran pastor in Silesia. His ministry was hampered by poor health and the Thirty Years’ War, but he faithfully ministered, and found time to write numerous hymns, including our Tuesday Hymn, “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended.”

The hymn pictures for us the holiness and innocence of Christ, and the depth of our sin. It reminds us that our salvation comes to us entirely through the grace of God. It is not something that we can earn or repay, but it is a merciful gift that becomes ours by what Christ did through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father. It is sung to several tunes, but the haunting “Iste Confessor” (https://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=11) is my favorite.

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

Lo, the good Shepherd for the sheep is offered:
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered:
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation:
Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

Happy Reformation Day

499 years ago today Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, unknowingly becoming the catalyst for the Reformation. Robert Gebel has written this song to commemorate that pivotal event in history.

The Reformation Polka
by Robert Gebel

[Sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious”]

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh…

Chorus:
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter’s profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints’ Bull’tin board:
“You cannot purchase merits, for we’re justified by grace!
Here’s 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!” Oh…

Chorus:
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
“Are these your books? Do you recant?” King Charles did demand,
“I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!” Oh…

Chorus:
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting “George” as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin’s model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh…

Chorus:
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Let’s raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh…

Chorus:
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Tuesday Hymns: “Poor Sinner, Dejected with Fear”

William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Baptist pastor who spent most of his days ministering in Manchester, England, and was, also, a prolific hymn writer (The CyberHymnal website lists 284 hymns attributed to Gadsby). He has once again gained popularity because of our Tuesday Hymn of the week, “Poor Sinner, Dejected with Fear.” Indelible Grace has taken a theologically solid old hymn, and released it to a new tune. Not all of Indelible Grace’s tunes are conducive for congregational singing but this one is simple and very singable. I have searched for other tunes connected to this hymn and have been unable to find any.

The hymn paints a picture of the grace that has been poured out upon sinners through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ who “knows and is known by His sheep; They’re His, and He will hold them fast.”

Poor sinner, dejected with fear,
Unbosom thy mind to the Lamb;
No wrath on His brow He does wear,
Nor will He poor mourners condemn;
His arm of omnipotent grace
Is able and willing to save;
A sweet and a permanent peace
He’ll free- ly- and faith- fully give.

Come just as thou art, with thy woe,
Fall down at the feet of the Lamb;
He will not, He cannot say, “Go”,
But surely will take out thy stain
A fountain is opened for sin,
And thousands its virtues have proved
He’ll take thee, and plunge thee therein,
And wash- thee- from filth- in His blood.

The soul that on Jesus relies,
He’ll never, no never deceive;
He freely and faithfully gives
More blessings than we can conceive;
Yea, down to old age He will keep,
Nor will He forsake us at last;
He knows and is known by His sheep;
They’re His- , and He will hold- them fast.

Tuesday Hymns: “A Man There is, a Real Man”

Joseph Hart was born in London in 1712 and at an early age resisted the truths of Christianity, going so far as to write a pamphlet entitled, “The Unreasonableness of Religion, Being Remarks and Animadversions on the Rev. John Wesley Sermon on Romans 8:32.” He was converted at a Moravian Chapel in Fetter Lane, London, after hearing a sermon on Revelation 3:10, and eventually became a Non-Conformist pastor and hymn writer. One of his best known hymns is “Come, Ye Sinners,” but I came across a hymn that I don’t ever remember singing, but it is a marvelous testimony of God’s grace to sinners, “A Man There Is, a Real Man.”

The hymn is written in common meter which means it can be sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace” or “How Sweet and Awesome is This Place” (or “The House of Rising Sun,” but I wouldn’t recommend that [snicker]). I am curious, has anyone ever sung this hymn in corporate worship, and if so, to what hymn tune was it sung?

A Man there is, a real Man,
With wounds still gaping wide,
From which rich streams of blood once ran,
In hands, and feet, and side.

‘Tis no wild fancy of our brains,
No metaphor we speak;
The same dear Man in heaven now reigns,
That suffered for our sake.

This wondrous Man of whom we tell,
Is true Almighty God;
He bought our souls from death and hell;
The price, His own heart’s blood.

That human heart He still retains,
Though throned in highest bliss;
And feels each tempted member’s pains;
For our affliction’s His.

Come, then, repenting sinner, come;
Approach with humble faith;
Owe what thou wilt, the total sum
Is canceled by His death!

His blood can cleanse the blackest soul,
And wash our guilt away;
He will present us sound and whole
In that tremendous day.

Tuesday Hymns: “Come, Ye Sinners”

Joseph Hart was born in London in 1712 and at an early age resisted the truths of Christianity, going so far as to write a pamphlet entitled, “The Unreasonableness of Religion, Being Remarks and Animadversions on the Rev. John Wesley Sermon on Romans 8:32.” He was converted at a Moravian Chapel in Fetter Lane, London, after hearing a sermon on Revelation 3:10, and eventually became a Non-Conformist pastor and hymn writer. One of his best known hymns is our Tuesday Hymn for this week, “Come, Ye Sinners.” It is a glorious reminder to us of the grace of Christ and of the fact that Jesus did not “come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)

Sunday night at Reformed Presbyterian Church we had a great discussion on the different tunes that were connected to Hart’s lyrics. The tune that I grew up hearing was a tune by an anonymous author entitled, RESTORATION. It has also been sung to Benjamin F. White’s, BEACH SPRING; Robert Edwards.’ CAERSALEM; William Owen’s BRYN CALFARIA; and now made popular to many college students by Matthew Smith’s Indelible Grace version.

The powerful message of Hart’s lyrics seems to be able to rise above whatever tune may be connected to it.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

Refrain

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Refrain

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Refrain

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Refrain

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Refrain

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

Refrain

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

Refrain

Tuesday Hymns: “Though Troubles Assail Us”

When people say the name, John Newton, our thoughts usually go to “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound,” yet, that was just one of the numerous hymns that he authored. Our Tuesday Hymn for this week is one of Newton’s hymns which we sang together at Reformed Presbyterian Church last Sunday: Though Troubles Assail Us.”

It is a hymn describing the faithfulness of God in the life of His people as “troubles assail us and dangers affright.” Newton reminds us that we are secure in Christ, even in a fallen world filled with troubles, temptations, hunger, and persecution. Our hope is to be found in the Biblical promise: “The Lord will provide.” Newton’s experience of God’s grace in Christ is a great encouragement to believers everywhere and his epitaph (which he wrote himself) reminds us of what God can do in the life of a sinner:

JOHN NEWTON, Clerk
Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
JESUS CHRIST,
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.
He ministered,
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty-eight years in this Church
.”

Now, “Though Troubles Assail Us.”

Though troubles assail us and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail us and foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The promise assures us, “The Lord will provide.”

The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn to trust God for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied
So long as ’tis written, “The Lord will provide.”

When Satan assails us to stop up our path,
And courage all fails us, we triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
This heart cheering promise, “The Lord will provide.”

He tells us we’re weak, our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek we never shall obtain,
But when such suggestions, our graces have tried,
This answers all questions, “The Lord will provide.”

No strength of our own and no goodness we claim;
Yet, since we have known of the Savior’s great Name,
In this our strong tower for safety we hide:
The Lord is our power, “The Lord will provide.”

When life sinks apace, and death is in view,
The word of His grace shall comfort us through,
Not fearing or doubting, with Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting, “The Lord will provide.”

Tuesday Hymns: “Blessed Jesus, at Your Word”

Tobias Clausnitzer was a German Lutheran pastor who was chosen to preach the Thanksgiving sermon to the soldiers in the field after the Peace of Westphalia was signed in 1848. Early in the following year he became the pastor at Weiden where he remained until he died thirty-five years later. His “Blessed Jesus, at Your Word,” is our Tuesday Hymn of the Week.

This hymn, translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in 1858, has much to say about the worship of the Triune God by His people. It begins with the Word of God (Blessed Jesus, at your word) and ends with the Word of God (Grant that we your Word may trust); reminding us that all true worship should be guided by His written Word.

Thus, our worship should be centered on what God wants (and where better to find what God wants then in His written Word), and not about the perceived needs of the worshipper. In this hymn we see the worship of the one true God, but we see that worship being expressed to each of the members of the Trinity. It flows from words of praise to the Son, to the Father, to the Spirit, back to the Son, back to the Spirit, and finally ending with a crescendo to the Triune God: “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Praise to you and adoration!

It is sung to the tune, Liebster Jesu.

Blessed Jesus, at your word
We are gathered all to hear you;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
Now to seek and love and fear you,
By your teachings, sweet and holy,
Drawn from earth to love you solely.

All our knowledge, sense, and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till your Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
You alone to God can win us;
You must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, yourself impart,
Light of Light, from God proceeding;
Open thou our ears and heart,
Help us by your Spirit’s pleading;
Hear the cry your people raises,
Hear and bless our prayers and praises.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Praise to you and adoration!
Grant that we your Word may trust
And obtain true consolation
While we here below must wander,
Till we sing your praises yonder.

Is it really “worse now than then?”

J. Edwin Orr once wrote:

Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution (following1776-1781) there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.

What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennos, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.

The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’ Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on anti-christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

After reading Dr. Orr’s assessment of the early days of our country, we are reminded that there is truly “nothing new under the sun.” It is not necessarilyworse now than thenas Marijohn Wilkin once sang. The world, the flesh, and the devil have been our enemies ever since God told Satan after Adam’s first sin that He wouldput enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Yes, there is much evil in the world, and we should do what we can to be salt and light in this decaying and dark place, but we should never forget that God is sovereign and that He is at work in our present situation for His glory and purpose.

I do not know if spiritual reformation or destruction lay in our immediate future as a nation, but I do know that God’s grace is real, and He will continue to call sinners to repentance regardless of the darkness of the day. Just be diligent to rest in Christ, walk in His Spirit, proclaim the Gospel, and be faithful even unto death and remember that “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does its successive journeys run; his kingdom spread from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

Tuesday Hymns: “Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard”

Isaac Watts once complained about the attitudes of some as they sang hymns in worship services: “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.”

It would be difficult for me, however, to imagine how one could be “indifferent, negligent, and thoughtless” as he sang Watt’s, “Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard,” based on the final verses of Isaiah 40 (which just happens to be our Tuesday Hymn for this week [Yes, I realize it has been a while]).

The hymn speaks of God’s creating and sustaining power and asks the reader if he could be so foolish as to believe that God’s “power shall fail when comes your evil day?” The implied answer is, “Of course not.” Although “Mere human pow’r shall fast decay, and youthful vigor cease; they who wait upon the Lord in strength shall still increase.”

The hymn is sung to Lowell Mason’s tune, HERMON.

Have you not known, have you not heard
That firm remains on high
The everlasting throne of Him
Who formed the earth and sky?

Are you afraid His power shall fail
When comes your evil day?
And can an all creating arm
Grow weary or decay?

Supreme in wisdom as in power
The Rock of Ages stands,
Though Him you cannot see, nor trace
The working of His hands.

He gives the conquest to the weak,
Supports the fainting heart;
And courage in the evil hour
His heavenly aids impart.

Mere human power shall fast decay,
And youthful vigor cease;
But they who wait upon the Lord
In strength shall still increase.

They with unwearied feet shall tread
The path of life divine;
With growing ardor onward move,
With growing brightness shine.

On eagles’ wings they mount, they soar,
Their wings are faith and love;
Till, past the cloudy regions here,
They rise to Heav’n above.

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