A Hymn That Would Not Be Written Today

Reading (and watching) Dr. Trueman's posts the past couple of days regarding rock star pastor Perry Noble (a disgrace to my hometown area of Greenville, SC), coupled with Dr. Eglinton's excellent piece, reminded me of one of my favorite hymns by John Newton. In my estimation, it is a hymn that would (could?) not be written today.

For those who know a bit about Newton's amazing pastoral relationship with the famed English poet William Cowper, it may seem like the words of the hymn are straight from one of Cowper's episodes of "melancholy."  The words, though, are universal in scope, for any Christian who has walked with the Lord for even a modest amount of time can resonate with this hymn.

The words of Newton would not be written today because so many times, as Trueman has tirelessly (and thankfully) pointed out, we are a shallow, overfed, silly, and rootless people in the evangelical church. Yes, of course, this happens in the Reformed world - no glass house to protect here. But let us remember that Newton himself was reformed (and cared for the poor and raised a family and...well, you get the picture. His was a holistic ministry without all the modern day neo-social gospel baggage that comes with such a label). In fact, perhaps Reformed theology alone could be the fertile soil for such Biblical reflections in song.

Read these astonishing words of Newton's and make sure you're at a church where you know your pastor. You won't be asking him to sacrifice his family on the altar of the ministry by doing so (a false dichotomy if there ever was one); rather, you'll hopefully find a shepherd and a group of believers that suffers and has suffered well to walk with you when such suffering inevitably comes. Trust me, you won't be singing "Highway to Hell" when cancer hits or loved ones die or children wander or jobs are terminated. Indeed, you will be pleading for the wisdom of those older saints that were annoyed (and mocked) by men like Noble. Why? Because many of them know deeply and experimentally just what Newton means.

So may we all have the courage to ask the Lord that we might grow - even if it results in this:

I Asked The Lord

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
"Tis in this way" The Lord replied
"I answer prayer for grace and faith"

7. "These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me."

©2004 double v music (ASCAP).
Used by permission. All rights reserved.