Savior, When in Dust to Thee  by Robert Grant, 1779-1838

A recording is available here:  http://youtu.be/3RIypqGC6x4

  1. Savior, when in dust to Thee
    Low we bow the adoring knee,
    When, repentant, to the skies
    Scarce we lift our weeping eyes,
    Oh, by all Thy pains and woe
    Suffered once for man below,
    Bending from Thy throne on high,
    Hear our solemn litany!

  2. By Thy helpless infant years,
    By Thy life of want and tears,
    By Thy days of sore distress
    In the savage wilderness,
    By the dread, mysterious hour Of the insulting Tempter’s power,
    Turn, O turn, a favoring eye,
    Hear our solemn litany!

3.By Thine hour of dire despair,
By Thine agony of prayer, By the cross, the nail, the thorn,
Piercing spear, and torturing scorn,
By the gloom that veiled the skies
O’er the dreadful sacrifice,
Listen to our humble cry,
Hear our solemn litany!

  1. By Thy deep expiring groan,
    By the sad sepulchral stone,
    By the vault whose dark abode
    Held in vain the rising God,
    Oh, from earth to heaven restored,
    Mighty, reascended Lord,
    Listen, listen, to the cry
    Of our solemn litany!

Luke 18:13

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Two men went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a despised tax collector. One boasted of his righteousness to the righteous one, the other knew his sine and unworthiness before God. We acknowledge our utter dependence God as we bow down into the dust. Acknowledgment of our sins brings with it the knowledge of our guilt before God. How can we even lift our eyes to the cross, knowing ourselves as we do? Yet, God reached down from his throne to hear our prayers.

From Christ’s birth, through his sore temptation in the desert by Satan himself to that faithful day on the cross, through nails, thorns, and spear, God listens to our humble cry.

John 19:30

 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said: “It is finished,”  and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

With a deep groan, heard for millennium to come: “IT IS FINISHED”. We are redeemed from the grave. The grave will wait in vain for he is risen! He has heard our solemn litany!

 


by W. Chalmers Smith 1824-1908

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/dkoAfLpBBfU

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart

Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

Within the first two phrases of the opening stanza Smith pulls together two very distant Biblical texts. The first line references 1 Timothy 1:17.

17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The second line has several possible origins. I think the one which fits best is Exodus 34:29-35

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

Moses wore the veil to hide the affect of seeing God from the Israelites. It is said that no one can see God and live.

The idea of light permeates the entire hymn in some rather unusual contexts.

A light which is inaccessible, yet contains the very essence of God, the wise, blessed, glorious, almighty, and victorious. This silent light gives life to all and is the source of goodness and justice.

The last verses in the fourth and fifth stanzas form a closing prayer.

Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

and

And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

Taking the veil from our faces and the vile from our hearts allows the glory of the Almighty, the Christ and his story into our hearts.

W. Chalmers Smith was a pastor of the Free Church of Scotland and a poet.



by Isaac Watts, (1674-1748)

Usually sung to the tune “Martydom” by Hugh Wilson (1764-1824)

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/pOwkhlqehgw

  1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed,

and did my Sovereign die!

Would he devote that sacred head

for sinners such as I?

  1. Was it for crimes that I have done,

he groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity! Grace unknown!

And love beyond degree!

  1. Well might the sun in darkness hide,

and shut its glories in,

when God, the mighty maker, died

for his own creature’s sin.

  1. Thus might I hide my blushing face

while his dear cross appears;

dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

and melt mine eyes to tears.

  1. But drops of tears can ne’er repay

the debt of love I owe.

Here, Lord, I give myself away;

’tis all that I can do.

Isaac Watts was one of the most prolific English hymn writers with over 750 hymns to his credit and many are still used today. Watts was raised in what was known at the time as a “non-conformist” home. The life threatening aspects of the reformation had largely passed by Watts’ lifetime, however, there was still a considerable amount of social ostracization towards those who did not conform to the official religious prescripts as ordained by the Anglican Church. His father, also named Isaac Watts was incarcerated twice, including the time of Isaac’s birth. Watts attended the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington beginning in 1690 for his university training instead of Oxford or Cambridge. The later would have put him under the authority of the Church of England.

Watts was a brilliant linguist learning Latin at 4, Greek at 9, French at 11, and Hebrew at 13. In his mid-twenties he became the pastor at Mark Lane Independent Church in London. He began to suffer from several periods of illness, which over time led him to relinquish his duties. However, he continued to write hymns, several books about history and faith, and even an introductory book on logic which went to 20 editions. He was a small man with an over sized head and has been described by his contemporaries as “ugly”. His one known marriage proposal was rejected.

One of the more controversial aspects of Watts hymns was his rewriting of the psalms to reflect how he imagined David would have written them if he had lived in 17th century London. Watts wanted to imbue his texts with an immediacy and expressiveness not available in the stilted, unrhymed, unmetered Psalms.

Within the very first stanza of Alas! and Did my Savior Bleed we see the clarity of Watts’ anguish. His Savior had bled and died for such a horrible sinner as himself. Was it his very own sins which put him on the cross? The amazing grace and love, beyond degree which led to such a sacrifice that even the sun hid its face when the Maker died for the Made’s sin. How shameful, I too must hide my face when I see the cross as my heart breaks in thankfulness and I cry tears of grief. But even these tears cannot begin to repay my debt of love so all I can do is: give myself away.

The penitent heart can do nothing else.



Romans 8:26 (KJV revised by ANR)

Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Music is the closest we can come to the groanings of Holy Spirit.

“Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow”
by Bernhardt S. Ingemann, 1789-1862
Translated by Sabine BaringGould, 1834-1924

  1. Through the night of doubt and sorrow
    Onward goes the pilgrim band,
    Singing songs of expectation,
    Marching to the Promised Land.
    Clear before us, through the darkness,
    Gleams and burns the guiding light.
    Brother clasps the hand of brother,
    Stepping fearless through the night.

  2. One the light of God’s own presence,
    O’er His ransomed people shed,
    Chasing far the gloom and terror,
    Brightening all the path we tread;
    One the object of our journey,
    One the faith which never tires.
    One the earnest looking forward,
    One the hope our God inspires.

  3. One the strain the lips of thousands
    Lift as from the heart of one;
    One the conflict, one the peril,
    One their march in God begun;
    One the gladness of rejoicing
    On the far eternal shore,
    Where the one almighty Father
    Reigns in love forevermore.

  4. Onward, therefore, pilgrim brothers!
    Onward, with the cross our aid!
    Bear its shame and fight its battle
    Till we rest beneath its shade.
    Soon shall come the great awaking,
    Soon the rending of the tomb,
    Then the scattering of all shadows,
    And the end of toil and gloom.

Commonly sung to the tune: Ebenezer (remember last month’s article?).

There is but one reason to sing and that is to worship and there are three primary types of songs we sing. We sing to praise, we sing to proclaim, and we sing to pray. This is a hymn of proclamation usually sung during Lent.

The most important part of a hymn, (it is the very definition of a hymn) is the text. The most important aspect to the text is that it faithfully declares the Glory of God. Every aspect of the text must speak to the Biblical truth clearly, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a song for some other purpose. I have heard some songs in church where any reference to God was purely inferred and these songs could just have easily been about some lost lover.

This hymn of proclamation describes the pilgrim’s journey which begins in darkness surrounded by doubt and sorrow. In the second stanza we find a great example of how hymns can teach and reinforce Biblical truths. The idea of God ransoming his people starts early in the Old Testament and finds its culmination at the foot of the cross. The fourth stanza makes a clear statement of the importance of cross and the empty tomb.

One of the most radical transformations which the reformers Luther, Knox, and Calvin wrought was the incorporation of congregational singing. At the time of the reformation worship was done in Latin, a language which had effectively been dead for nearly 1000 years, which all but the most educated had no understanding. The music was performed by professional musicians and choirs. The congregation simply stood there for hours and watched the actions of others.

Moving worship to the vernacular and even letting the congregation sing spiritual poems set to simple tunes was such a profound change we have difficulty understanding it today. The fathers of the reformation and many since have left us thousands of hymns of praise, proclamation, and prayer.

Every Sunday your pastoral and musical staff endeavor to bring music which clearly and unabashedly proclaims God’s truth.

I would challenge you to read the text of each hymn and song we sing and consider the Biblical truths present and even more importantly, dialogue with the text. Consider the implication for your life in the truths proclaimed.