Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

The old hymns of the faith contain many wonderful theological truths. I have reposted an article by Christopher Lafortet. Laforet shows how any biblically sound hymn can be used as a Bible study of the doctrines it contains.

Below Laforet presents Bible studies of the following hymns:

“Holy, Holy, Holy”
“The Old Rugged Cross”
“Because He Lives”
“Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”
“It is Well With My Soul”
“Softly and Tenderly”
“At the Cross”

Click here for the original source of this article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

The Theology of Hymns

 Christopher Laforet

Started on 10/20/2001


No matter our stand in life, whether we are Christian or not, it is true to state that there has been some hymn that we have heard at some time.  A good example of such a hymn is “Amazing Grace” which is sung in churches, in meetings, and is used more than any other in films and TV shows whenever a scene calls for a religious song!  Many of us have favorite hymns, those that have a perfect combination of melody, harmony, and flowing words that combine to move our hearts.  Any self-respecting church has a hymnal or song-book with several hundred of these special songs all anxiously waiting their moment to be sung and played.

Yet, unbeknown to us, many of these hymns teach us the tenets of our faith and develop our theological understanding!  This is no accident for, during the past centuries when many people were illiterate and Bibles were hard to come by, there was no way to teach them how to read scripture.  Many of these songs were born to present the truth of the Gospel in a form that was easy to remember.  Take some words containing sound doctrine and mix them with a memorable tune and the result is something that can be readily learned and recalled by even the most illiterate person.  After all, is this not the way we teach children?  Secular tunes such as “Itsy-bitsy spider” are easily assimilated by young minds and soon are sung by the child as well as the parent.  Likewise, Christian songs such as “This little light of mine” and “Jesus loves the little children” become a very powerful witness within the life of a child!

The purpose of this study is to pick several strongly theological hymns and to chase down the underlying Scripture within them.  The men and women who penned these words were deeply devout Christians who were led to combine their active faiths with Scriptural truths to provide powerfully compelling hymns.  Sometimes they were inspired by specific passages of Scripture and other times they blended many aspects of Christianity into a cohesive whole.  Whether knowingly or unknowingly, they created true masterpieces of song which have endeared themselves to succeeding generations and which have taught the truths concerning God.

The following hymns were chosen to demonstrate the concept, that theology exists within their easy to memorize stanzas.  The fact that any one hymn is not in this list does not indicate anything other than there are not enough hours in a day to get them all!  If your favorite hymn is not in this list, there is nothing to prevent you from digging up the theology on your own.  Also, sometimes the song is magnificent, but the subjects are too varied to delve them all up and keep the study from bogging down.  A good example of this is “How Great Thou Art” which ranks in the pantheon of my personal favorites.  It is theologically sound and absolutely majestic and its words echo from all over the Bible.

It is the purpose of this study to teach you more about God and His grace.  It is my hope that you will take this concept as you grow in Christ, and apply it to other hymns.  Sometimes you will find that some are less rooted in theological truths than others.   All in all, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Words composed in 1826 by Reginald Huber

Most common tune, NICAEA, composed in 1861 by John B. Dykes

This old favorite hymn forms one of the cornerstones of praise in any hymnal.  It has crossed most denominational lines and has become a great hymn within each of the denominations that encountered it.  It has truly majestic words cast into an equally majestic tune that conveys a sense of order and royalty.  Its wide acceptance speaks volumes to its solid theology.


Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!


Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;


Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!


God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.


Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,


Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;


Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,


Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.


Holy, holy, holy! Tho the darkness hide thee,


Tho the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see;


Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,


Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.


Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!


All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea;


Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!


God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

The underpinnings of this marvelous hymn are found in Isaiah 6.  Let us read verses 1-8 and capture the vision of the calling of Isaiah, a priest in the Temple.  While Isaiah was in the Temple doing his customary duties, God transcended time and space in his sight and provided the aspiring prophet a glimpse into His majestic throne-room.

The flying seraphim uttered the words that form the foundation of each stanza (v 3).  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” stresses the absolute holiness of God.  Three is a number of perfection in Hebrew thought, similar to us using the epithet “perfect” to emphasize something’s condition.  God is thus three times holy, perfectly holy.

As imperfect, sinful man, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me…for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”  (v 5)  Imperfect man would die when confronted with the awesome presence of God’s extreme holiness, but Isaiah did not die on the spot because God answered his plea of confession.  He provided atonement for Isaiah’s sinful state (v 6,7).  It is likely that it is this image of unholy Isaiah being purified so that he could see God that led to line #10 in the hymn.

As a priest, Isaiah would offer sacrifices and incense in the morning and in the evening.  The author of this hymn emphasized the morning in line #2 and thus also recalled Psalm 5:2,3.  It is this emphasis that places God first on our daily agenda and by doing so, we align everything else in its proper order.

The emphasis on the Trinity is a central doctrine of Christianity.  It is one of the most difficult concepts to explain or to fully comprehend, the fact that God is One but also is three distinct persons.  Deuteronomy 6:4 proclaims the oneness of our God.  In spite of this, in Genesis 1:26, God said (to Himself), “Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness…” which proclaims His plurality.  The two concepts created a paradox for, without further evidence, there is no solution to it.   Until the advent of Christ, there are no easy ways to understand this concept.

John 1:1-4,14 leads us to understand some of this concept.  The Word was with God and was God and always was from the beginning.  The Word was the agent of creation for it was the Word who spoke the creation into being.  It was the Word who stated, “Let us make man in our image.”  This Word, who was God, became flesh and walked among us in the person of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:1-4 parallels the account that we just read and brings together the concept of the Father and the Son.  They are One and yet they are also distinct characters within the oneness.

In John 14:5-14, Jesus Himself explains that the Father and He are indeed one.  In verses 10 and 11, He declared that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.  Later in the same chapter, Jesus introduced the person of the Spirit.  Read John 14:15-21.  There is an interplay between the Holy Spirit and Jesus.  “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth…I will come to you…the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.”  This interplay is no accident as we can detect from 2 Corinthians 3:17 and Ephesians 2:22.  Jesus even introduced the concept of the entire Trinity in Matthew 28:19 as He gave the farewell speech and the Great Commission.

The Trinity is a oneness and a three-ness.  The oneness is that God is One but is in three persons which co-exist and are co-eternal; the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Each is God and all are God!  The Catholic monk, Patrick, explained the concept of the Trinity to the Irish by holding up a cloverleaf.  Each of the three lobes are all separate and yet the leaf forms one entity attached to one stem.  Each member of the Trinity presents a separate aspect of God and yet they are all united as God.

In the hymn, lines #4 and #16 stress the doctrine of the Trinity.  The three-ness can also be seen reflected in the three holys for each member of the Godhead is in Himself, equally holy.  There is a sense of “Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, and Holy is the Spirit” expressed in the perfection of three-ness.

Merged into the vision of Isaiah is the throne-room vision of John in Revelation 4:1-11.  The whole of the second stanza is based upon this passage that forms a powerful image of the intensity of worship before God’s throne.  The saints (v 10) adore God and lay their crowns before Him in honor.  Cherubim and seraphim are the creatures who surround the throne of God, the same ones seen by Isaiah many centuries before.  They worship the Lord God day and night (v 6b-8).  They chant the words, “Holy, holy, holy” before God’s throne and extol Him mightily (v 8b).  Line #8 reflects the latter part of their chant, “who was, and is, and is to come.”

In line #11 there is a reference to God’s uniqueness.  There is only one God and He is all.  God demands that since there is no other God that He be accorded the position of true Godhood in every life.  The first commandment (Exodus 20:2,3; Deuteronomy 5:6,7) insists upon this fact.  There is none beside God Almighty.  In addition, the Son of God, Jesus, stands unique as being the only source of salvation.  See Acts 4:8-12.  He who indeed is perfect in power and love and purity (#12) is indeed the only way to be saved.

The final stanza reflects the glory that will be accorded to Christ before the final judgment.  All creation will proclaim Jesus as Lord and pay homage to Him as God.  This concept is presented in Philippians 2:9-11.  At the name of Jesus, all creation will bow and confess Him as Lord.  Indeed, all of His works will praise His name.

The Old Rugged Cross

Words and tune by George Bennard, 1913.

This is one of the most requested hymns of all time, a near and dear song of hope for many.  It was written by a Salvation Army officer and was based upon his wrestling with a major spiritual issue.


On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,


The emblem of suff’ring and shame;


And I love that old cross where the dearest and best


For a world of lost sinners was slain.



So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,


Till my trophies at last I lay down;


I will cling to the old rugged cross,


And exchange it some day for a crown.


Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world,


Has a wondrous attraction for me;


For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above,


To bear it to dark Calvary.


In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,


A wondrous beauty I see;


For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,


To pardon and sanctify me.


To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,


Its shame and reproach gladly bear;


Then he’ll call me some day to my home far away,


Where his glory forever I’ll share.

When Jesus was sentenced to die by Pilate (the Roman Procurator in Jerusalem) at the insistence of the Jews’ chanting, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”, He was sent to be crucified outside the city of Jerusalem.  Mark 15:22 states it simply as, “they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the Place of the Skull).”  The Latin word for skull is calavario from which we get the name of the place which we use the most, Calvary.

The hill far away (line #1) lies to the northwest of Jerusalem, a grotesque-looking lump of rock outcropping that really does look like a skull.  Upon that hill was erected many crosses over the years of Roman rule upon which many criminals and subversives shed their lives.  Yet, we are not interested in those crosses, only one very specific one.  It is the cross upon which one man named Jesus of Nazareth shed His blood to save all mankind.  It is that old, rough-hewn cross which captures our interest.

There is nothing in its appearance that attracts us to it.  Upon close examination it appears rough and splintered and, since it has been used, it is covered with rivulets of dried blood.  It seems no different from the other crosses that were erected upon that hill of death.  What makes it special is the Who who was nailed there and the Who whose blood now stains it.  That Who is the “dearest and best” (line #3), the “dear Lamb of God” (line #11).  The Lamb of God is none other than Jesus (see John 1:29-36) who came in the flesh to bear our sins (John 6:32,41; Philippians 2:6-8).

It was “for a world of lost sinners” that Jesus was sacrificed (line #4).  This was decreed and prophesied many centuries before it happened (see Isaiah 53:3-10).  Read Acts 2:22-24 and Romans 5:6-8 to gain an understanding that Jesus died for our sins.  His innocent blood, unjustly shed, redeems us from our sins (1 John 1:7; Rom 3:25a; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:19,20; Hebrews 9:14, 26-28).  The work on the cross was done by the shedding of the priceless drops of Christ’s blood that coursed down and stained its rough wood.  The crucifixion is the means of our salvation (Col 2:13-15), for it was indeed on that “old cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me.”  (Lines #15,16)  Read Galatians 3:13,14.

Yet, the epic of the crucifixion started way before.  It was the plan of God even from the time the first sin was committed.  The plan was that Jesus would come to earth and become a savior.  In Genesis 3:15, God laid out the plan of the virgin birth and the fact that the woman’s offspring would crush the power of sin to separate man from God.  Jesus is God and was with Him from the beginning (John 1:1-3).  As God, Jesus chose to leave the glory of heaven (line #11) to live in the tent of humanity (John 1:14).  Lines #11 and 12 reflect the truth of Phil 2:5-8.

The acceptance of salvation by the blood of Christ calls for commitment.  It is not a matter of accept and then forget.  The commitment to Christ is meant to be total and complete.  Read Gal 5:24, 5:13, Eph 5:1,2, Col 3:1-4.  This is the thrust of lines #17-20, the summing up of Phil 3:12-14.  The goal of Christians is to persevere until the end and then attain the resurrection in Christ (Phil 3:7-11).

Because He Lives

Words and Music by Gloria and William Gaither, 1971

Throughout the years, the Gaithers have produced many marvelous songs during their long and distinguished career in Christian music.  Through today, the Gaither specials remain a favorite bastion of Christian music on TV.  We will now analyze one of their compositions and note the solid truths underlying even modern hymnology.  Let us look at the words of this hymn of hope.


God sent his Son, they called him Jesus;


He came to love, heal, and forgive;


He lived and died to buy my pardon,


An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.



Because he lives I can face tomorrow;


Because he lives all fear is gone;


Because I know he holds the future;


And life is worth the living just because he lives.


How sweet to hold a newborn baby,


And feel the pride, and joy he gives;


But greater still the calm assurance,


This child can face uncertain days because he lives.


And then one day I’ll cross the river;


I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;


And then as death gives way to vict’ry,


I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know he lives.

Liberal theologians attempt to deny the resurrection of Christ and then nonchalantly state that such a denial does not undermine the Word of God!  They attribute the resurrection to myth, imagination, and even falsehoods and they don’t bat an eyelid while they claim to be “Christians” in their next breath!  This is ludicrous at best.  Upon what truth can such a faith be based?

If the resurrection did not occur, then the Word of God would be merely a lie.  Can one be content trusting one’s future upon a lie?  If the resurrection did not occur, then God (at least if He is the God of Scripture) is none other than an author of lies.  Could one trust such a god if he claimed that our future was secure on one hand, and yet could lie about such an important lynchpin of faith!

The premise of this song is that such thoughts and beliefs are trash.  It is “because He lives that I can face tomorrow!”  (line #5)  The empty tomb is not a myth, it is not a collective hallucination, and it certainly is not a story made up by the disciples.  The New Testament stresses the risen Lord repeatedly (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; John 20:1-18; Acts 1:3; see also Luke 24).

The denial of the resurrection of Christ is nothing new.  It started on the Sunday morning when Jesus’ body could not be found.  The Jewish officials bribed the Roman guards to state that they had fallen asleep and the body had been taken by His disciples (Matt 28:11-15).  The irony of this is that Roman soldiers knew better than to fall asleep at their posts for the price of such an act was death.  Anyway, such denials continued rampantly from that point onward.

The resurrection matters, regardless of what liberal theologians say.  For if there is no resurrection of Christ, then there could not be resurrection of the believer.  Without resurrection, there is no hope.  This is exactly the argument used by Paul in 1 Corinthians while dealing with the same denials that we still face today!  We will read the passage in a moment but as you read, take careful note of the importance of the resurrection, the hoards of eyewitnesses, and then the absolute waste of time Christianity would be if it were not true.  Now read 1 Cor 15:1-19 and then follow this with the affirmation of Christ’s real resurrection in verses 20-28.

In the hymn, line #4 is the pointer to the physical resurrection of Christ.  His grave, unlike any other in human history, is empty because He walked out of it having been brought back to life from death.  It is because of the simple truth that that empty grave proves God’s good faith towards us, we can sing lines 5-8 honestly.

Lines #9-12 bring the reality of the resurrection to our level.  One of the greatest feelings we can experience comes from holding an innocent, pure baby in our hands.  Yet, even that feeling pales when compared to the great truth that Jesus is a living Lord who can change that baby’s life tremendously.  Such “calm assurance” comes from the certainty of God’s unshakable Word.

Finally, lines 13-16 take the reality of the resurrection into each Christian’s life.  Reality is that we will face death once, but unlike those who are lost, we KNOW that Jesus will be waiting for us on the other side.  See Romans 6:4-11 and 1 Cor 15:35-36.  We are natural man and destined to die once to our physical natures.  Christians can rest assured that they will be restored imperishable to see Christ face-to-face (see 2 Cor 4:7-18 and Revelation 22:1-5).  This is the quiet and unshakable truth that the power of the resurrection holds for God’s people.

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

Words by Augustus Toplady, 1775-6

Music by Thomas Hastings, 1832

This old favorite has stood the test of time.  It is one of the most respected hymns of assurance.  The words reflect the soul’s appeal to God for shelter and support in spite of life’s storms and doubts.


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,


Let me hide myself in thee;


Let the water and the blood,


From thy wounded side which flowed,


Be of sin the double cure,


Save from wrath and make me pure.


Not the labors of my hands


Can fulfill thy Law’s demands;


Could my zeal no respite know,


Could my tears forever flow,


All for sin could not atone;


Thou must save, and thou alone.


While I draw this fleeting breath,


When mine eyes shall close in death,


When I rise to worlds unknown,


And behold thee on thy throne,


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,


Let me hide myself in thee.

The Rock of Ages, quite obviously, is God.  The call upon the Rock to cleft, to create a special safe haven, is seen in Psalms 94:20-23 (especially verse 22).  The image is that of God being a solid rock who will surround His people to protect them from attack.  Following this imagery, turn to Psalm 61:1-4 to see more of the same.  “Rock of Ages, cleft for me” begins as a cry for protection in line #1 and ends with an appeal for eternal security in line #17.

The rock imagery in itself is intriguing.  It has so many different facets that are worth mentioning.  Here are some thoughts:

1.       The rock of the confession that Jesus is God’s Messiah – Read Matthew 16:13-20.  The confession by Peter (Petros means literally, “the rock”) that Jesus is God’s Son is the rock upon which Christ’s church is built.  Not even the full fury of Satan and his minions will overcome it (v. 18).

2.       The bedrock of teaching that forms a solid foundation – Read Matt 7:24-27.  A wise man will choose to build upon a solid foundation of bedrock rather than sinking, shifting sand.  Thus, a man who hears the call of Christ, God’s only Son, and who puts His words into practice has built a solid structure upon a sure foundation.

3.       The rock of Christ’s judgment – Read Romans 9:30-33 and 1 Peter 2:4-8.  Righteousness comes from faith in the Son of God, not from man’s feeble attempts to behave in a holy fashion.  At the end of time, at God’s judgment seat, Christ will either protect the believer or crush the unrepentant sinner.

4.       The rock of God’s provision – As the Israelites faced dying of thirst in the wilderness of Zin (Sin), they called for respite.  God assured them with a powerful example of His gracious provision.  Read Exodus 17:1-7.  Moses was commanded to lead the people to a rock and then to strike it.  As such, the rock would be an unlikely source for life-sustaining water, yet God would provide water from the rock.  Needless to say, water flowed from the rock, a source of life to satisfy the needs of all the people.  This image was a prophesy of the coming Messiah, the rock who would be struck once to satisfy the needs of all mankind!

(For all of you who are Bible scholars among us, here is a quick quiz.  Why did God not allow the generation of Israelites that left Egypt to enter the Promised Land?  It is because they did not trust God’s oath that they would capture the land (Numbers 14).  This did not include Moses nor Caleb nor Joshua.  Now, why did God not allow Moses to enter into the Promised Land?  It was because Moses’ anger prevented God from teaching His people a powerful truth, that Christ would be struck only once for all time, and that He would offer His grace freely afterwards!  Read Numbers 20:1-13.  For a second time the people of Israel were at the brink of death by dehydration in the same Desert of Sin some 30 years later.  God commanded Moses to go to the same rock he had struck years before and to SPEAK to it and “it will pour out its water.”  Moses, in his anger towards the unfaithful people, disobeyed God and smacked the rock twice with his staff.  The rock did deliver its water but the tremendous object-lesson of the forthcoming Messiah was lost upon the Israelites.  Unfortunately, because of this, the lesson remains lost upon the Jews even until now!  See Hebrews 9:27,28 to determine this simple fact, that Christ was to be struck only once, for our sins and then never again.)

Lines #3 and 4 of the hymn refer to a moment at the end of the crucifixion.  Read John 19:31-37.  Jesus had died around 3PM that day.  To make certain that He was dead, a soldier took the point of his spear and pushed it into His side.  Verse 34 is a very critical part of the eyewitness account of Jesus’ death which is explained by medical science.  When the spear pierced Christ’s body, it poked though the pericardium and into the heart.  Apparently, when the heart stops beating for a period of time, the pooled blood therein separates into distinct components.  The red blood cells separate from the serum and white blood cells.  What the disciple John witnessed was this separated mixture exuding from the wound.  The clear component (“water”) and the red component (“blood”) poured from the pierced heart.

The innocent blood of Jesus which was unjustly shed evens the wrong of sin in our lives (lines #5 and 6).  Hence, it is by His blood that we are saved from our sins and rendered clean before God.  Read Hebrews 9:11-15 then follow this with the rest of the chapter (v 16-28).  Notice verse 27 and 28 in light of the previous discussion concerning the disobedience of Moses!  Now read Romans 5:6-11, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:19-23, and 1 Peter 1:17-23.  Under no condition can we buy our own salvation, not with silver or gold, nor with the works of our hands (see Eph 2:4-9) which is the thrust of lines #7-12.

The final verse, lines #13-18, expresses the assurance of the saved soul even in light of the fleetingness of life.  The uncertainty of life in lines #13 and 14 reflects Job 14:1,2 and Psalm 103:15,16.  The certainty of the saved soul comes from trust in the blood of Christ which saves completely (see Heb 7:24,25).

It Is Well With My Soul

Words by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873
Music by Philip Bliss, 1876

This hymn ranks in my personal pantheon of all-time favorites.  Whenever I feel down or fearful of my present or my future, this hymn can always bring me back to earth.  Its bold assurances, born from a life that was not unacquainted with grief, serve to remind Christians everywhere who may be facing troubles or fears that it is indeed well with their souls.


When peace like a river attendeth my way,


When sorrows like sea billows roll;


Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,


It is well, it is well with my soul.


It is well, with my soul,


It is well, it is well with my soul.


Though Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,


Let this blest assurance control,


That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,


And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t –


My sin – not in part, but the whole,


Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,


Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,


The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,


The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,


“Even so” – it is well with my soul.

The point of this hymn is the tremendous assurance of one’s salvation after one has come to Christ.  No matter what happens in the life of a believer (line #3), regardless of good times (line #1) or bad (line #2), there is God’s solid promise that one’s soul is in safe hands for all eternity.  These words of hope did not spring from a glib-tongued man, but rather from someone who had lost several members of his family to a collision of boats at sea.  It is always easier to be confident in God when all things seem to be going our way than during the moments when we are mired in the depths of sorrow and of pain.

Regardless of trials and all the fury of Satan’s realm which may be aimed at a Christian’s life (line #7), the confidence should always be that God is in control of our most precious part: our soul (lines #8-10).  We can be assured of a soul’s perfect value because our precious Lord Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed for it!  Lines #11-14 bring the stark truth of its value forward, for all of our sins are nailed to the cross to never, ever, ever again hurt us!  See Galatians 3:13,14 for the scriptural basis underpinning the truth of these lines.  Through the blood of Christ, all penalty against us because of our sins has been cancelled.  Our sins have been nailed to the cross where they are now covered over with the blood of our Savior.  They have been rendered illegible and unrecognizable as sins!  Ephesians 2:13-18 reemphasizes this simple fact.  Jesus brokers the peace between God and sinful man as long as man accepts the blood shed for his redemption.  Christians are no longer isolated from God by the impassible gulf of sin.

It is indeed well with a Christian’s soul for it is guarded and protected by God Himself, and He is unchanging and unchangeable.  Read Matthew 10:28-31 where Jesus was addressing the problem of worry.  His response was that only God can destroy both soul and body and thus His disciples had nothing to fear.  This was a simple fact to Jesus, for He knew that His Father would protect their most vital asset, their souls.  See Philippians 4:7.

A person confronted by tragedy, disaster, and the working of evil need never fear nor despair for God will keep them safe.  See 1 John 5:18-20 and Romans 8:31-38.  What can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus?  Nothing!  Jude 24,25 states, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”  God will preserve His people through everything.

Let us turn to a few passages which build upon this concept that God will protect His own.  Turn to Joshua 1:5 then follow it with Hebrews 13:5,6.  He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us who are His.  Psalm 27:10 brings forth His steadfastness.  When the tragedies of life seek to buffet us and to swamp us, we must trust in God and let Him exert His Lordship over the situations that arise (Ps 27:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  It is incumbent upon Christians to realize that He will protect them (2 Thess 3:3; Ps 23:4; 1 Samuel 2:9).

The final stanza (lines #15-18) demonstrates the actual value of a saved soul.  A Christian’s salvation buys them eternal life with Christ, even though they may suffer hardships.  Read 1 Peter 1:3-7.  Realize that the return of the Lord is imminent and when it happens it will follow 1 Thess 4:13-18.  When Christ comes back as the mighty victor, all Christians will receive their resurrection bodies and enter into life eternal, the goal of their faith (1 Pe 1:9).

If you do not have this calm assurance about your protection, if you have not claimed the blood of Jesus as yours, if you do not KNOW that you are in Christ, then now is the time to consider turning your life over to Him.  We have studied all about His love.  We have learned about His desire for all of us to accept His sacrifice on Calvary’s tree for our own redemption.  What more would it take to convince you?

Softly and Tenderly

Words by: Will Thompson, 1880
Music by: Will Thompson, 1880

There is a whole genre of hymns used for invitation, at the stage of the service when hearts which have heart the truth of the gospel and which have been convicted by that truth can respond and publicly make a profession of faith.  There are so many excellent hymns to chose from such as “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” “Turn your Eyes upon Jesus,” “Out of my Bondage, Sorrow, and Night”, and the one made famous by Billy Graham crusades, “Just As I Am.”

Each of these hymns strss some aspect of the Invitation by Christ to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  Some take the point of view presented by that very verse, that God invites one to come to Him.  Others take the perpective found in a heart yearning for salvation.


Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,


Calling for you and for me;


See, on the portals he’s waiting and watching,


Watching for you and for me.


Come home, come home;


Ye who are weary come home;


Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,


Calling, O sinner, come home!


Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,


Pleading for you and for me?


Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,


Mercies for you and for me?


Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,


Passing from you and from me;


Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,


Coming for you and for me.


O for the wonderful love he has promised,


Promised for you and for me!


Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,


Pardon for you and for me.

The most difficult moment in the life of a non-believer is that of hearing the Word of God, feeling convicted by the message, and then having to respond.  Satan never wishes to lose a soul to God and will do everything to prevent the person from acting upon it.  The convincing properties of

invitation hymns are there to carry forward the momentum of a heart that is half-decided to come to Christ and to walk forward to crucify their life of sin.

There is strong Biblical precedence of this fact in Jesus’ own words.  Let’s take a few moments to read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9.  His disciples then approached Him and asked Him to explain the meaning of the parable.  He did that in verses 18-23.  Notice very carefully the meaning of the seed on the path (versed 4 and 19).  Jesus told His disciples (and by extension, each of us) that Satan does everything in his power to prevent a person from making the first step. On the other hand, God’s goal is that every Christian should be like the seed planted on good soil that “produces a crop, yielding, sixty or thirty times what is sold.” (v 23).

Part of the framework of this particular invitation hymn comes from Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son.  Read 15:11-32.  Every descendant of Adam is represented by the lost son for we “all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  (Isaiah 53:6a)  Everyone makes a conscious decision to serve themselves instead of God and thus become sinners.  The son in the parable left his father’s house and squandered his investment.  He turned all of his marvelous gifts into cheap and useless living.  Meanwhile, unknown to him, his father waited day by day, month by month, year by year, at the door of his house and relentlessly scanned the horizon for any sign of the return of his estranged, yet beloved, son.  It is this fact that forms the presumption underlying lines #3 and 4.  The father’s thought (which surely expressed itself verbally on occasion after frustrated occasion) is expressed in lines #5 and 6.

The son, the paradigm of a sinner separated from God and who has squandered his or her God-given resources, settles for a life of mediocrity.  He reasoned, just as we all reason as sinners, “why remain here feeding swine and dying of hunger when I can fare better in my father’s house, even if I am only a servant there?  After all, even my father’s servants live better than this!”  Lines #11 and 12 are indicative of this line of thought.  Little did the son know, nor do sinners realize, that the Father is keeping watch and waiting for them to appear silhouetted on the horizon.  Why don’t we, in our sinful state, hear Jesus pleading for us to come home?  If sinners were to come to this realization, would we consciously wait for one more second before rushing into His loving arms and accepting His gracious forgiveness?  (See lines #9 and 10)

Overcoming one’s fears and making the decision to return to the Father’s house, having the resolve to turn one’s footsteps homewards regardless of the consequences, is the first step of salvation.  The tremendous beauty of the salvation process is that while we are still journeying home, we are met halfway by our loving Father.  Only then do we realize that He has forgiven us and has been waiting anxiously for us to accept the forgiveness.  While the enemy has convinced us that things will never be the same at home, if we were to return we would discover that not only are they the same but they are even better than our expectations!  This is true because He has forgiven us completely through the blood of His precious Son who lovingly died on our behalf.  Our sins are extinguished by His love and we are restored as sons and daughters of God (lines #17-20 — see John 1:12,13)

The moment of decision will not last forever.  The enemy will do his best to squash the will to accept the gift of God, death looms as a great uncertainty, and we can never be sure that our mental capacity to make the decision will not be affected (lines #13-16 — see Hebrews 3:6-13).  The saddest word to the Father’s ears is “later.”  Later may never come and one may die unforgiven of one’s sins, outside the family of God!  Thus if you hear God’s call, do not allow yourself to be talked out of it.  Do not play chicken when your eternity is at stake!

At the Cross

Words by: Isaac Watts, 1707
Refrain and Music by: Ralph Hudson, 1885

Now we will apply some of what we have learned in this study.  We will examine a hymn and attempt to derive its theology.  Once we have developed a working model for such a skill,, it should become a part of our normal approach to everything that we consume.  We are commanded to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  (Matthew 10:16)  This means, in part, that we must be completely on our guard for false doctrine.  In 1 John 4:1-3 urges to “not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”  We must be completely aware of what we believe and why believe it!

Now let us take the time to dissect the following hymn:


Alas! And did my Savior bleed,


And did my Sovereign die?


Would he devote that sacred head


For sinners such as I?


At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,


And the burden of my heart rolled away;


It was there by faith I received my sight,


And now I am happy all the day.


Was it for crimes that I have done,


He groaned upon the tree?


Amazing pity!  Grace unknown!


And love beyond degreee!


Well might the sun in darkness hide,


And shut its glories in,


When God, the mighty maker, died


For his own creature’s sin.


Thus might I hide my blushing face


While his dear cross appears;


Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,


And melt mine eyes to tears.


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.

Closing Remarks

Hymnology is fascinating study.  One may approach hymns and study their history, the stories behind the hymns, the lives of the writers, and the theology of the words as we have been doing.  It is my hope that this study will help you to derive even greater enjoyment from singing hymns.  So many of them contain tremendous nuggets of truth.  One could do no better than to chase those nuggets into the Scriptures and learn “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge”.  (Ephesians 3:18,19)   Doing this will make you more intimately aware of God’s tremendous promises, His amazing grace, His almighty nature, His overwhelming love, and His gracious plans.Hymns by themselves are not effective –  they require the power of God’s Holy Word to activate them and bring them to life.  They do, however, form a great tool to point our hearts and minds into the Bible to convict us, to teach us, to reassure us, and to remind us of the intense love and grace of our loving God.There are several excellent books that tell the stories behind the hymns.  Once such book is “Songs in the Night” by Henry Gariepy (Eerdmans, 1996).  A neat site online for discovering hymn lyrics and their respective tunes is http://www.hymnsite.com which, by no means, is the only such one.  It is worthwhile to have at least one good hymnal.  These can be purchased at large Christian book stores, or many times churches have old hymnals that are not used anymore that they may be willing to give to you if you request it!

Content from www.WeeklyBibleStudy.org, Copyright © 2001, Christopher Laforet. All rights reserved.


Sermons on Hymns

Amazing Grace
Pass Me Not
There is a Fountain
How Firm a Foundation
Rock of Ages

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The late H. Orton Wiley was one of my favorite Wesleyan Holiness theologians. He was not perfect (no one is), but his writings are far more biblically sound than more recent Nazarene theologians such as Mildred Wynkoop, H. Ray Dunning and Thomas J. Oord. (Click here for my blog which discusses the increasing liberalization of Nazarene theology textbooks over the years.)

Below I’ve reposted Wiley’s list of books on the Atonement and related doctrines, from his three-volume Christian Theology. Click here for the original source of this list – as well as Wiley’s entire three-volume Christian Theology – viewable online.) Note – I’m in the process of alphabetizing this list by author. Also note – the original list was not scanned accurately by those who put Wiley’s three-volume Christian Theology into digital form.

I plan to add links to author bios, as well as links to online books.

Please note that these books present many different theological positions, not just the Wesleyan Holiness position. I am working on separate blogs which list only books of the Wesleyan Holiness position.


Anselm (1033-1109), Cur Deus Homo, English Translation by Deane, Chicago, 1903 (free online Google eBook of first edition, 1858)

Albert Barnes (1798-1870), The Atonement in Its Relation to Law and Moral Govern­ment, Philadelphia, 1859 (free online Google eBook)

Charles Beecher Redeemer and Redeemed, Boston, 1864 (free online Google eBook)

B.R. Brasnett, The Suffering of the Impassible God, 1928

Horace Bushnell (1802-1876), Christ and His Salvation, 1865 (free online Google eBook)[I added this title-DM]

Horace Bushnell, The Vicarious Sacrifice (2 volumes), New York, 1891 (this free online Google eBook  includes both volumes under one cover)

John M. Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement, London, 1873

R.S. Candlish (1806-1873), The Atonement: Its Efficacy and Extent, Edinburgh, 1867 (free online Google eBook)

S. Cave, The Scripture Doctrine of Sacrifice, T. & T.  Clark

H.S. Coffin, Social Aspects of the Cross, New York, 1911

Thomas J. Crawford, The Doctrine of the Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement, 1875

M.C. D’Arcy, The Pain of This World and the Providence of God, 1936

R.W. Dale, The Atonement, New York, 1876

James    Denney,    The Atonement and the Modern Mind, London, 1903

James    Denney,    The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation, New York, 1918

James    Denney,    The Death of Christ, New York, 1903

George C.    Foley,    Anselm’s Theory of the Atonement, New York, 1909

L.W.    Grensted,    A Short History of the Doctrine of the Atonement

Grotius,    De Satisfactione (Editions from 1617-1730), English Translation by Foster, Andover

James    Hinton,    The Mystery of Pain, 1866

F.R.M.    Hitchcock,    The Atonement and Modern Thought, London, 1911

A.A.    Hodge,    The Atonement, Philadelphia, 1867

E.W.    Johnson,    Suffering, Punishment and Atonement, 1919

Albert C.    Knudson,    The Doctrine of Redemption, Abingdon, 1933

J. S.    Lidgett,    The Spiritual Principle of the Atonement, London, 1901

Clark Robert    Mackintosh,    Historic Theories of the Atonement, New York, 1920

H.R.    Mackintosh,    The Christian Experience of Forgiveness

William    Magee,    Scripture Doctrine of Atonement and Sacrifice, New York, 1839

Howard    Malcom,    The Extent and Efficacy of the Atonement, Philadelphia, 1870

F.D.    Maurice,    The Doctrine of Sacrifice Deduced from the Scriptures, 1854

John    Miley,    The Atonement in Christ, New York, 1879

R.C.    Moberly,    Atonement and Personality, New York, 1901

R.C.    Moberly,    Sorrow, Sin and Beauty, 1903

J.K.    Mozley,    The Doctrine of the Atonement, Scribners, 1916

J.K.    Mozley,    The Impassibility of God, 1926

H.N.    Oxenham,    The Catholic Doctrine of Atonement, London, 1865

A.S.    Peake,    The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament, 1904

Leighton    Pullen,    The Atonement, London, 1913

Lonsdale    Ragg,    Aspects of the Atonement, London, 1904

Rashdall,    The Idea of Atonement in Christian Theology, MacMillan, 1920

G.W.    Richards,    Christian Ways of Salvation

Ritschl,    The Scripture Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation,

H. Wheeler    Robinson,    Suffering: Human and Divine, MacMillan, 1939

A.    Sabbatier,    The Doctrine of the Atonement and Its Historical Evolution, English Translation, New York, 1904

D.W.    Simon,    Reconciliation Through Incarnation, Edinburgh, 1898

D.W.    Simon,    The Redemption of Man, Edinburgh, 1899

G.    Smeaton,    The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself, Edinburgh, 1868

P.L.    Snowden,    The Atonement and Ourselves, London, 1919

G.B.    Stevens,    The Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 1905

William    Symington,    The Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ, New York, 1849

T.V.    Tymns,    The Christian Idea of Atonement, London, 1904

Ralph    Wardlaw,    Discourses on the Nature and Extent of the Atonement, Glasgow, 1844

J.S.    Whale,    The Christian Answer to the Problem of Evil, 1936


The best treatment of the Preliminary States of Grace, as also the subjects of Justification and Regeneration, will be found in the standard works on Systematic Theology. Representing the earlier, or what is some times known as modified Arminianism, are the following: Watson, Insti­tutes; Wakefield, Christian Theology; Summers, Systematic Theology; Pope, Compendium of Christian Theology; and Ralston, Elements of Divinity. The last named work contains an excellent discussion of the Calvinistic and Arminian positions. As representative of the so-called later Arminianism, Raymond, Systematic Theology; Miley, Systematic Theology; Whedon, Commentaries, and A. M. Hills, Fundamental Chris­tian Theology. In the Calvinistic theology, Dr. W. G. T. Shedd represents the realistic position, and Dr. Charles Hodge, the Federal or Representa­tive position. Among the older works on both the Calvinistic and Ar­minian positions, may be mentioned the following:

James    Arminius,    Writings, Volume III

Albert Taylor    Bledsoe,    Examination of Edwards on the Will, An; Philadelphia, 1845

Albert Taylor    Bledsoe,    Theodicy, A; or Vindication of Divine Glory, New York, 1853

John    Calvin,    Institutes, Book III, Chapters xxi-xxiv

Edward    Copleston,    Enquiry into the Doctrines of Necessity and Predestination, London, 1821

Jonathan    Edwards,    A Divine and Supernatural Light Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, 1734 (A sermon noted for its spiritual philosophy)

Jonathan    Edwards,    An Essay on the Freedom of the Will, 1754

W.    Fisk,    The Calvinistic Controversy, New York 1837

John    Fletcher,    Checks to Antinomianism, Volumes I-H

John    Forbes,    Predestination and Free Will Reconciled, or Calvinism and Arminianism United in the Westminster Confession, 1878

Randolph S.    Foster,    Objections to Calvinism, Cincinnati, 1848 (many editions)

Martin    Luther,    Bondage of the Will

Asa    Mahan,    Election and the Influence of the Holy Spirit, 1851

Asa    Mahan,    System of Intellectual Philosophy, New York, 1845

J.B.    Mozley,    Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, 1855

Henry Philip    Tappan    Doctrine of the Will Applied to Moral Agency and Responsibility, 1841 (Single volume, Glasgow, 1857)

Henry Philip    Tappan    Doctrine of the Will Determined by an Appeal to Consciousness, 1840

Henry Philip    Tappan,    Review of Edwards on the Will, A, New York, 1839

George    Tomline,    A Refutation of Calvinism, London, 1811

Thomas C.    Upham,    Treatise on the Will, 1850 [early Wesleyan Holiness?]

Richard    Watson,    Theological Institutes, Part II, Chapters xxv-xxviii

John    Wesley,    Works, Volume VI, On Predestination

Daniel D.    Whedon,    Freedom of the Will, 1864


Here again, the best treatment of the subject will be found in the standard works on theology. The clearest and most specific treatment is found in the earlier treatises.           ‘

James    Buchanan,    The Doctrine of Justification, Edinburgh, 1867

John    Calvin,    Institutes, III, xi-xxiii

G.    Cross,    Christian Salvation, Chicago, 1925

John    Davenant,    A Treatise on Justification (2 volumes), London, 1844­1846

R.N.    Davies,    A Treatise on Justification, Cincinnati, 1878

Jonathan    Edwards    (the younger), On the Necessity of the Atonement, and Its Consistency with Free Grace in Forgiveness, Three addresses, 1875, which form the basis of the “Edwardean Theory” of the Atonement, generally accepted by the “New England School.”

Faber,    The Primitive Doctrine of Justification

Julius Charles    Hare,    Scriptural Doctrine of Justification

Charles Abel    Heurtiey,    Justification, 1845 (Bampton Lectures)

M.    Loy,    The Doctrine of Justification, Columbus, Ohio, 1869, 1882

Martin Luther, On Galatians

H.R.    Mackintosh,    The Christian Experience of Forgiveness (previously mentioned)

S.M.    Merrill,    Aspects of Christian Experience, Chapters iv-vii

John H.    Newman,    Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification, London, 1874

John    Owen,    Works, Volume V, The Doctrine of Justification

G.W.    Richards,    Christian Ways of Salvation, New York, 1923

Albrecht    Ritschl,    The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, (Translated by Mackintosh and Macaulay)(Second Edition, 1902)

Richard    Watson,    Theological Institutes, II, Chapter xxiii

John    Wesley,    Sermons, V, VI, and XX. (Harrison, Wesleyan Standards, Volume I)

John    Witherspoon, Essay on Justification, 1756 (Considered one of the ablest Calvinistic expositions of the doctrine)


Outside of the standard works on theology, the literature of Chris­tian Sonship or Regeneration is not extensive.

H.    Begbie    Twice-Born Men, New York, London and Edinburgh, 1909 (previously cited)

Stephen    Charnock,    On Regeneration, (Complete works in Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, 5 volumes, Edinburgh, 1864)

R.N.    Davies,    A Treatise on Justification, 1878 (Lecture x)

Jonathan    Edwards,    On Spiritual Light (mentioned in connection with Prevenient Grace)

Faber,    Primitive Doctrine of Regeneration

John    Fletcher,    Discourse on the New Birth

G.H.    Gerberding,    New Testament Conversions, Philadelphia, 1889

G.H.    Gerberding,    The Witness of the Spirit

John    Howe,    On Regeneration (Sermons xxxviii-xlix) Complete Works (2 volumes), London, 1724; New York, 1869

G.    Jackson,    The Fact of Conversion, London, 1908

Archbishop    Leighton,    On Regeneration

N.H.    Marshall,    Conversion or the New Birth, London, 1909

S.M.    Merrill,    Aspects of Christian Experience (Chapter x)

H.E.    Monroe    Twice-Born Men in America, 1914

Austin    Phelps,    The New Birth, Boston, 1867

Walton    Witness of the Spirit

John    Wesley,    Sermons, X, XI, XII, XVIII and XIX (Harrison, Wesleyan Standards, Volume I)

John    Witherspoon    Treatise on Regeneration, 1764 Calvin, Institutes, III, i-ii

Witsius    Covenants, III, vi

Young,    The Witness of the Spirit, 1882

ADDITIONAL READING  (Wesleyan Holiness books on Salvation, Evangelism and related topics; I am also preparing some lists offline)

The Wesleyan Heritage Library CD contains the following, among eBooks on many other subjects:

Amos Binney, Binney’s Theological Compend

Samuel Logan Brengle, The Soulwinner’s Secret

Charles Ewing Brown, The Meaning of Salvation

James Blaine Chapman, All Out For Souls

James Blaine Chapman, Nazarene Primer

List of PDF books from various theological viewpoints

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