One might wonder why in the heading of my blog there are a collection of hymnals. I am a worship leader and collect hymnals of high caliber on which to draw Christ-centered, cross-focused texts which exhort God’s people to worship on the basis of Christ and Him crucified for their sins. I compose original melodies as well as arrange old ones so that the Church may be edified in singing these timeless truths. William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a pastor and hymnwriter who compiled the first edition of his hymnal on in 1832. I have a copy of the final text-only edition in my possession (recent reprint by Old Paths Gospel Press). #662 gives us the sum and substance of Christian worship.
O the matchless love of Christ!
He has bought our souls with blood!
Jesus, our exalted head
For us sighed, and groaned and bled
He invites us to this feast
Bids our souls His glories taste
And with pleasure keep in view
What he once for us went through
Hear Him speak, ye blood-bought few
For this word is sent to you
You, the objects of His choice
Listen to His saving voice:
“This My body is and blood
Take, receive it as your food”
But, as oft as this you do
Keep your slaughtered Lord in view
View Him in your wretched place
Overwhelmed in deep disgrace
Plunged in horror’s dreadful flood
The vindictive wrath of God
View Him and with wonder tell
He has vanquished death and Hell
Canceled all your sins with blood
And will bring you home to God
As I reflect on these words, I see much that makes the present-day American evangelical shudder. Vindictive wrath of God? Horror’s dreadful flood? Objects of choice?
First, God has bought us with His blood. Romans 5:1-2 tells us that through Christ we obtain access by faith into the grace in which we now stand, which is tied directly to the shedding of blood by Christ in verse 6. Ours is a faith founded on the shedding of blood. It’s one of the truly great paradoxes of our time that blood would be so offensive and war video games so popular. Useless shedding of blood is held up as entertainment and purposeful shedding of blood is denied, ignored or belittled.
Second, the feast: communion. He invites us to be nourished by His body and blood; it is in this way that we receive in part the grace of God. What more important thing do we have to do than to receive the grace of God through the Lord’s Supper? (Answer: nothing.)
Third: the vindictive wrath of God is being poured out on all unrighteousness as per Romans 1:19. The good news for those in Christ is that this wrath is poured out onto Christ, not them. This wonderful assurance is another victim of the purpose-driven model of ‘evangelism’. The wrath of God is not passive…it is active.
Finally, the wonderful assurance of our place eternally with God is given by Christ and His sealing us with the Holy Spirit. This is not pie-in-the-sky, sweet by and by theology, folks. This is the reward for alien obedience.
But I suppose it’s more convenient to sing love songs to ‘my boyfriend Jesus.’ They don’t remind us of His death or of how much we’re truly loved. That would point out our sin…and we don’t want to know about that. It might necessitate repentance or something which would completely defeat Jesus being simply added to my already fulfilling life.
No love I have for Christ could ever match the love He displayed, let alone the love He actually has for His people.