I have been in the process of writing and recording a set of albums, Old & New, setting new music to older hymns and texts. I recently released my second of three and wanted to write a little about why I spent so much time devoted to old stuff (see other posts: I, II, III, IV). You can get download both of the albums for free here: gregwillson.bandcamp.com. This post is on the fourth track, Salvation for Wretched Dying Men.
The basics of the gospel are mind-blowing. Or maybe I should put it this way: “basics”. Though simple on paper and logically intelligible, the “basics” are extremely profound and turn our worlds upside down. Or, to edit myself again, turn ourselves right side up.
Man is wretched and dying and deserves to be in this state. We said (and say), “No, thank you, God, we’ve got this covered. You can go away now.” And we’ve devised all sorts of schemes and plans to make ourselves feel better about it. We’ve presented these diagrams to our hearts and, though they’ve protested, we cauterized their voices by becoming entangled in a milion other things that scramble for our attention. And yet, God has still offered us a way to be saved from our own wretchedness. That we deserve. That we run so gladly to. And this rescue isn’t just for us, for humans, but for all of creation.
Most of the song below was written by Isaac Watts in 1709. I added the last two lines of the chorus and did some adjusting on the verses. I thought Watts, in such good economy, told well the story of redemption. The first two lines of the chorus: “Salvation from the Lord / For wretched dying men” Salvation (first off, it exists!) comes from God alone, and unstoppably descends to man, as he is: in death, in His own misery.
Is this too good to be true? Well it’s too good, but it’s also true.
Begin my tongue, some heavenly theme
And speak some boundless and blissful thing
The mighty works or mightier name
Of our eternal, unrivaled King
Tell of His wondrous faithfulness
And sound His power of peace abroad
Sing the sweet promise of His grace
And beauty of our saving God
Salvation from the Lord
For wretched dying men
His breath restores the world
Redemption knows no end
How could my leaping heart rejoice
And think my heaven is secure
I trust the all-creating voice
And faith desires nothing more
Oh, might I hear Thine heavenly tongue
But whisper, “Thou art mine!”
Those gentle words should raise my song
To notes almost divine
Engraved as in eternal brass
The mighty promise always shines
Nor can the powers of darkness rase
Those everlasting, infinite lines