My previous post was on one of my favorite hymns by Isaac Watts, Boast No More. This got me to thinking of other hymns I enjoy. Probably, my favorite hymnist was Charles Wesley. By far my favorite hymn of Wesley’s, and I think my favorite hymn period, is And Can It Be.
I admit I came to this hymn later in life. Well, I say later in life, I was in my 20’s, in graduate school at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I fell in love with the song the fist time I heard it and have listened to it ever since.
It is a hymn I don’t hear often, if ever, in my Baptist circles. But, I think, it is one of (if not the) best hymns ever written. Before I say more about it I will give the lyrics to the hymn.
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be That
Thou, my God, should die for me?
Chorus: Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
For me the third stanza is the best. It speaks of the great awakening of salvation with picturesque and poignant imagery. It is the testimony of believers through all ages.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay . . . Paul teaches us in Ephesians that before our salvation we were dead in trespasses and sins. There in the dungeon, held by the wages of sin, which is death, our spirit lay shackled and bound, without hope, without life.
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night . . . alone and without recourse our natural person lay helpless; helpless to save himself/herself. Helpless to right the wrongs she had committed. Helpless to atone for the sins of his flesh. Encumbered and shrouded in night, in darkness, in dread: lifeless under the curse.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray . . . Yet, in our despair; in our helplessness and hopelessness the light of God’s gaze penetrated our gloomy cell. A single ray of divine light pierced through the darkness and chased the shadows to the corners.
I woke, my dungeon flamed with light . . . My eyes were opened, for the first time, to see the truth and grace of the gospel of Christ. The whole dungeon, and as far as I was concerned, the entire world was aflame in the light of the divine presence. Holiness had intruded into the dark and dank of sin. Hope had flooded the cell of foreboding. Life dawned in the pit of death. Glory shone brightly in the heart of hell. And the darkness had no answer!
My chains fell off, my heart was free . . . As with Lazarus, I heard the voice of the Savior and my chains . . . chains of fear, chains of sin, chains of regret, chains of self-loathing, chains of doubt, chains of shame, chains of disgrace, chains of death, chains of hell–suddenly, in an instant clanged to the floor. The manacles which once held me fast, now laid in a heap of silent steel. My heart, now unfettered, felt for the first time (but not the last) freedom. My heart beat for the first time and broke the silence of death and pronounced resurrection had occurred!
I rose went forth and followed thee . . . Again, as Lazarus, I rose and followed the voice of the one who was and is The Resurrection and the Life. I had been bought. I had been rescued, delivered from sin and death. So, I followed the Master. I followed the One, the only One, who had the power to reclaim my soul from the restraints of the penalty of sin. The curse had been lifted and life had dawned anew.
And can it be? I sometimes wonder. Is it too good to be true? How can it be? How can it be that he would love even me? The only answer I can find is simple and yet profound: the grace of God.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5.8)