By Grace Alone: Three Observations and a Hymn

The first observation is that I’m grateful for the intelligent use of the blue Trinity Hymnal that is made at Calvary OPC in Glenside. English hymnals have a lot of hymns compared with what is available in Spanish. I think, however, that the whole range is seldom used, and many of the worst get more than their fair use. It seems that at Calvary there is a special talent for using the best the hymnal affords, which is considerable.

The second is that whoever put that hymnal together really had a thing for Arthur Sullivan. Now I love opera and I really get a kick out of having it come up in worship. I do not think it belongs there, but I feel more amusement than indignation when it appears, for whatever reason. I associate Sullivan’s work with opera though I’m not familiar with the G & S repertory. There’s usually something not altogether right about a hymn-tune written by Arthur Sullivan, but Leonminster seems the exception. It retains dignity.

The third is that I will always be grateful for the stress on grace alone I have found in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In Baptist churches there is such a stress on conversion that we often inadvertently suggest that the Gospel is something we once needed and got, that it is something for the unconverted, and that it is therefore not something believers need on an ongoing basis. That is not the case in the OP churches I’ve attended, so much so that they can be puzzled at the concept of an evangelistic sermon. The Gospel is the constant message, the heart of every sermon, and the Christian life is a gospel life, one of daily turning from sin and daily turning toward Christ, in whom must repose the only hope of salvation. Horatius Bonar is not high on my list of religious poets, but what he states in this lyric makes it for me the most OPC hymn ever, and I love that it is clear, that it is swift to its point, and that it lingers on assurance.

Not what my hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, O Christ,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord to thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.

Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy pow’r alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save thine,
No other blood will do;
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.

I bless the Christ of God;
I rest on love divine;
And with unfalt’ring lip and heart
I call this Saviour mine.
This cross dispels each doubt;
I bury in his tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear,
Each ling’ring shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace;
I trust his truth and might;
He calls me his, I call him mine,
My God, my joy, my light.
’Tis he who saveth me,
And freely pardon gives;
I love because he loveth me,
I live because he lives.

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