Hymns and Irresistible Grace

| August 9, 2016

One of the most familiar and beloved hymns in Christian hymnody is “Amazing Grace.” This hymn is John Newton’s enduring testimony to salvation by grace alone. Generations have sung and resounded his words. But why did he choose grace as his theme? What is it about grace that makes it amazing? Newton answers that question in his hymn:

Amazing Grace! (John Newton, 1779)

1. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
[Baptist Hymnal, 2008 #104]

Why do we sing about grace? John Newton tells us: It is by God’s grace that wretches like us are saved! We were lost and blind. In ourselves we had no power or ability to overcome sin or even recognize that we needed to be rescued from sin. But what we were unable to do, God has done. His grace is amazing because it flows inexorably with divine purpose and power. God’s grace has almighty, sovereign power to accomplish all He intends to do. Though we were lost and blind, by God’s grace alone we were found and given eyes to see. Though we “were dead in trespasses and sins,” “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5). This is what theologians call the efficacious or irresistible grace of God.

There are many hymns that celebrate this wonderful doctrine, too many to mention in this brief post. Here are a few of my choices:

Great God, ‘Tis from Thy Sovereign Grace
(from Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787)

1. Great God, ‘tis from Thy sovereign grace
That all my blessings flow;
Whate’er I am or do possess
I to Thy mercy owe.
[Baptist Psalmody, 1850 #79]

Grace! ‘Tis a Charming Sound (Philip Doddrige, 1755)

1. Grace! ‘Tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to mine ear;
Heav’n with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.

2. Grace first contrived a way
To save rebellious man,
And all the steps that grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #401]

Grace Greater Than Our Sin (Julia H. Johnson, 1849–1919)

1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
[Baptist Hymnal, 2008 #105]

Fountain of Never Ceasing Grace (Augustus Toplady, 1740–1778)

1. Fountain of never ceasing grace,
Thy saints’ exhaustless theme,
Great object of immortal praise,
Essentially supreme;
We bless Thee for the glorious fruits
Thine incarnation gives;
The righteousness which grace imputes,
And faith alone receives.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #440]

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson, 1758)

3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace now, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #400]

Now Thank We All Our God
(Martin Rinkart, c. 1636; trans. Catherine Winkworth, 1858)

2. O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #86]

Lord with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee (Francis Scott Key, 1817)

3. Praise the Savior God that drew thee
To that cross new life to give,
Held a blood-sealed pardon to thee,
Bade thee look to Him and live:
Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,
Roused thee from thy fatal ease,
Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,
Praise the grace that whispered peace.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #69]

Not What My Hands Have Done (Horatius Bonar, 1861)

3. Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work save Thine,
No other work will do;
No strength, save that which is divine
Can bear me safely through.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #403]

Rock of Ages (Augustus Toplady, 1776)

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked come to Thee for dress,
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #421]

What Though I Cannot Break My Chains
(Augustus Toplady, 1740–1778)

1. What though I cannot break my chains
Or e’er throw off my load,
The things impossible to men
Are possible to God.

5. Thou canst o’ercome this heart of mine,
Thou wilt victorious prove;
For everlasting strength is Thine,
And everlasting love.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #398]

Come, Dearest Lord, Descend and Dwell (Isaac Watts, 1709)

2. Come, fill our hearts with inward strength;
Make our enlarged souls possess
And learn the height and breadth and length
Of thine unmeasurable grace.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #250]

And a newer song that has become one of my favorites:

Grace Unmeasured (Bob Kauflin, ©2005 Sovereign Grace Music)

1. Grace unmeasured, vast and free
That knew me from eternity,
That called me out before my birth
To bring You glory on this earth.
Grace amazing, pure and deep
That saw me in my misery,
That took my curse and owned my blame
So I could bear Your righteous name.
Grace paid for my sins
And brought me to life.
Grace leads me to heaven
Where I’ll see Your face
And never cease to thank You for Your grace.

I have left out many hymns and songs that could be added to this list. What would you include when rejoicing in God’s amazing grace through song?