Hymns and the Doctrine of Election
In the last post we began looking at doctrine in hymns. Specifically, we focused on hymns that teach about the depravity of man. The music of the church is tied to theology. We sing as well as preach our doctrine. Our songs instruct us. They can teach us well or they can teach us poorly. They can be theologically barren, with little of value to say, or they can be rich with the content of God’s Word. It is to our spiritual advantage to sing songs filled with sound doctrine that will let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16).
Hymns are a great asset when teaching doctrine, especially when we are trying to fathom portions of Scripture that run deep or soar to great heights. They offer a beautiful way to attempt to wrap our minds around the profound and glorious truths of God’s Word. Consider the doctrine of election. Though God would have been just to leave us under the wrath and condemnation due our sin, in love He purposed to rescue a people out of their sin and redeem them to Himself. Even before time began, He chose to set His love on us in Christ. In Christ we were loved before time! Such a thought is almost too wonderful for words! There are many verses and passages of Scripture where we could turn to marvel at this doctrine (such as Deuteronomy 7:6–8; Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:3–6; Romans 8:31–39; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 2:9). But what hymns help us to express and rejoice in this truth?
Here are a few of my choices:
Glory to God the Father’s Name (Isaac Watts, 1674-1748)
1. Glory to God the Father’s name,
Who from our sinful race,
Hath chosen myriads to proclaim
The honors of His grace.
[Baptist Psalmody, 1850 #129]
How Vast the Benefit Divine (Augustus Toplady, 1774)
1. How vast the benefits divine
Which we in Christ possess!
We are redeemed from guilt and shame
And called to holiness.
But not for works which we have done,
Or shall hereafter do,
Hath God decreed on sinful men
Salvation to bestow.
2. The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone,
Aught to ourselves we dare not take,
Or rob Thee of Thy crown.
Our glorious Surety undertook
To satisfy for man,
And grace was given us in Him
Before the world began.
3. This is Thy will, that in Thy love
We ever should abide;
That earth and hell should not prevail
To turn Thy word aside.
Not one of all the chosen race
But shall to heaven attain,
Partake on earth the purposed grace
And then with Jesus reign.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #95]
Sovereign Ruler of the Skies (John Ryland, 1777)
1. Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.
2. His decree, who formed the earth,
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place and time,
All appointed were by Him.
[A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship—William Gadsby, 1965 #64]
Sons We Are Through God’s Election (S.P.R.—in Gospel Magazine, 1777)
1. Sons we are, through God’s election,
Who in Jesus Christ believe;
By eternal destination,
Saving grace we here receive;
Does both grace and glory give.
[A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship—William Gadsby, 1965 #69]
‘Twas with an Everlasting Love (John Kent, 1803)
1. ‘Twas with an everlasting love
That God His own elect embraced,
Before He made the worlds above,
Or earth on her huge columns placed.
2. Long ere the sun’s refulgent ray
Primeval shades of darkness drove,
They on His sacred bosom lay,
Loved with an everlasting love.
3. Then in the glass of His decrees,
Christ and His bride appeared as one;
Her sin, by imputation His,
Whilst she in spotless splendor shown.
[Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 2004 (Founders Press) #46]
‘Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee (John Conder, 1836)
1. ‘Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For that could never be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Had Thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old Thou hast ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #96]
Father, ‘Twas Thy Love That Knew Us (attributed to James George Deck, 1837)
1. Father, ‘twas Thy love that knew us,
Earth’s foundations long before;
That same love to Jesus drew us
By its sweet constraining power,
And will keep us, and will keep us,
Safely now and evermore.
[Our Own Hymnbook—C.H. Spurgeon, 1866 #730]
I Sought the Lord and Afterward I Knew (Anonymous, c. 1904)
3. I find, I walk, I love, but O the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord to Thee;
For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
Always Thou lovest me.
[Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 2004 (Founders Press) #25]
Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney, 1985)
(words ©1990 Edmund P Clowney)
4. Triune Your majesty,
Triune Your love to me,
Fixed from eternity in heaven above.
Father, what mystery,
In Your infinity
You gave Your Son for me, infinite love!
[Trinity Hymnal, 1991 #24]
Praise Our God His Love Eternal (Ken Puls, 1987)
(words ©1987 Kenneth Puls)
1. Praise our God, His love eternal;
Who can measure its degree?
Spanning ‘fore the world’s creation,
Reaching through eternity.
Pause and wonder, all His children;
See how great His love for thee!
Many more could be added to this list. What psalms, hymns and spiritual songs would you chose when singing of God’s sovereign love in election?