For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sometimes It's Good To Look To The Past, Part Two

In response to my post about returning to the passion of earlier days, my good friend Rod, a little side tracked by the whole Stryper theme, gave me a good natured rebuke. He told me to “Dust off your Puritan hymnals my friend, and feed your soul the true music of heaven.”

Actually, he wasn’t just being facetious. I do collect antique hymnals as a hobby. And he makes a very good point. The idea of returning to the past and recapturing some of the passion and substance of our forefathers in the faith would apply to the area of music as well.

As I’ve already demonstrated, I have a certain weakness for loud screaming guitars. But there is certainly something to be said for the insightful lyrics of days gone by. So much of today’s “worship music” is weak and insipid lyrically, regardless of the musical style. The hymn writers of days gone by were often much more theologically astute.

One of the favorite pieces in my collection is the 1847 edition of The Psalmist, a nice old Baptist collection which includes many of the Puritan writers Rod refers to, especially Isaac Watts. Consider the richness of Watts’ words in adoration of God’s Sovereignty:

Keep silence, all created things,
And wait your Maker's nod;
My soul stands trembling while she sings
The honors of her God.

Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown,
Hang on His firm decree;
He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.

Before His throne a volume lies,
With all the fates of men,
With every angel's form and size
Drawn by th' eternal pen.

His providence unfolds the book,
And makes His counsels shine;
Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfils some deep design.

Here, He exalts neglected worms
To scepters and a crown;
And there, the following page He turns,
And casts the monarch down.

My God, I would not long to see
My fate with curious eyes,
What gloomy lines are writ for me,
Or what bright scenes may rise.

In Thy fair book of life and grace
May I but find my name,
Recorded by Thy sovereign grace
Beneath my Lord, the Lamb!

Aside from the sound theology of that great work, how many of us would even have the patience to sing that many verses?! Definitely not a "7-11" song. Or how about this humble entreaty from 18th Century Baptist PK, Anne Steele:

And will the Lord thus condescend
To visit sinful worms?
Thus at the door shall Mercy stand,
In all her winning forms?

Surprising grace! - and shall my heart
Unmoved and cold remain?
Has it no soft, no tender part?
Must Mercy plead in vain?

O Lord, exert thy conquering grace;
Thy mighty power display:
One beam of glory from thy face
Can melt my sin away.

Unlike our modern little song books, there are over 1,000 entries in this old book, most of which reflect the same kind of passion and insight. Indeed, looking backward to some of these great old hymns would do us a world of good. It would remind us modern, independent, self-sufficient types of the biblical truth that God is God and we are not. Our pride and ego could use a good dose of these songs.

So thanks, Rod, for the reminder. Though it was meant in jest, you merely confirmed my previous post that there is great value in looking back sometimes.


Rod said...

Looking past men in tights is my kind of backward glance.

See you soon.

Scott said...

What does Shakespeare have to do with anything? Or maybe you're thinking of Superman. Anyway...