Hymns and God's Law as a Rule of Life

| November 1, 2016

In the last post we looked at hymns that teach the use of God’s Law as a tutor to Christ. God’s Law exposes our sinfulness and helps us see our great need of a Savior. Only in Christ can we escape the condemnation of the Law and find forgiveness and peace with God. But the Law shows us more than where we fall short of God’s glory. It teaches us our duty to God. The Law serves as a rule of life that shows us God’s will, how we are to live as creatures made in His image. Apart from Christ the Law condemns us; we fall far short of that rule. But in Christ the Law becomes our delight. “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (Romans 7:22). For the Christian obedience to the Law becomes a joyful act of thanksgiving. Charles Bridges explains:

“And thus they show their gratitude to Him for His perfect obedience to it as a covenant [of works] in their stead, by their uniform obedience to it as a rule in His service” (Charles Bridges in Christian Ministry, 228).

The 1689 London Baptist Confession describes this use of God’s Law:

True believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be justified or condemned by it. Yet it is very useful to them and to others as a rule of life that informs them of the will of God and their duty. It directs and obligates them to live according to its precepts. It also exposes the sinful corruptions of their natures, hearts, and lives. As they examine themselves in light of the law, they come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred of sin, along with a clearer view of their need for Christ and the perfection of His obedience. The law is also useful to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions because it forbids sin. The punishment threatened by the law shows them what even their sins deserve and what troubles they may expect in this life due to their sin, even though they are freed from the curse and undiminished severity of it. The promises of the law likewise show them God’s approval of obedience and the blessings they may expect when they keep it, even though these blessings are not owed to them by the law as a covenant of works. If people do good and refrain from evil because the law encourages good and discourages evil, that does not indicate that they are under the law and not under grace (1689 London Baptist Confession, 19.6).

The Law has value for believers as a rule of life exhorting us to flee from sin and pursue holiness, teaching us to love God first and foremost, and to love others. Here are my top choices of hymns that teach the use of God’s Law as a rule of life for Christians:

The Law of God Is Good and Wise (Matthias Loy, 1883)

3. To those who help in Christ have found
And would in works of love abound,
It shows what deeds are His delight
And should be done as good and right.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #449]

Blessed Are the Undefiled in Heart (from Psalm 119, Isaac Watts, 1719)

1. Blest are the undefiled in heart,
Whose ways are right and clean.
Who never from the law depart,
But fly from every sin.

2. Blest are the men who keep Thy Word
And practice Thy commands;
With their whole hearts they seek the Lord,
And serve Thee with their hands.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #447]

Most Perfect Is the Law of God (from The Psalter, 1912)

1. Most perfect is the law of God,
Restoring those that stray;
His testimony is most sure,
Proclaiming wisdom’s way.

O how love I Thy law!
O how love I Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.

2. The precepts of the Lord are right,
With joy they fill the heart;
The Lord’s commandments all are pure,
And clearest light impart.

O how love I Thy law!
O how love I Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #450]

How Shall the Young Direct Their Way? (from Psalm 119:9–16; The Psalter, 1912)

1. How shall the young direct their way?
What light shall be their perfect guide?
Thy Word, O Lord, will safely lead,
If in its wisdom they confide.
Sincerely I have sought Thee, Lord,
O let me not from Thee depart;
To know Thy will and keep from sin
Thy Word I cherish in my heart.

2. O blessed Lord, teach me Thy Law,
Thy righteous judgments I declare;
Thy testimonies make me glad,
For they are wealth beyond compare.
Upon Thy precepts and Thy ways
My heart will meditate with awe;
Thy Word shall be my chief delight,
And will not forget Thy Law.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #450]

Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth (from Psalm 119:33–40; The Psalter, 1912)

1. Teach me O Lord Thy way of truth,
And from it I will not depart;
That I may steadfastly obey,
Give me an understanding heart.

2. In Thy commandments make me walk,
For in Thy law my joy shall be;
Give me a heart that loves Thy will,
From discontent and envy free.

3. Turn Thou mine eyes from vanity,
And cause me in Thy ways to tread;
O let Thy servant prove Thy Word,
And thus to godly fear be led.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #451]

Teach Me O Lord Thy Holy Way (William Matson, 1866)

1. Teach me O Lord Thy holy way,
And give me an obedient mind;
That in Thy service I may find
My soul’s delight from day to day.
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #456]

Send the Law Before the Gospel (Ken Puls, 1986)
(words ©1987 Kenneth Puls)

4. On the cross was Christ afflicted,
There endured the wrath of God.
Now the Law no more condemns us,
Satisfied by His shed blood.
God has set His Law before us;
Let His Word be our delight!
As we travel unto glory,
Persevering in His light.

5. God has given His commandments;
They shall never pass away.
On our hearts His Spirit writes them,
That we can through grace obey.
May His Law forever guide us
In the paths of righteousness,
As we seek His will most holy,
All our efforts He shall bless!

The Law That Once Was Placed by God (Ken Puls, 1989)
(words ©1992 Kenneth Puls)

1. The Law that once was placed by God
On tablets made of stone
Is now engraved on every heart
Whom Christ has called His own.
These Words that once condemned for sins
And showed the wrath of God
Are now the Christian’s great delight,
Made precious by the blood.

5. All those who cast aside these Words
And spurn them in this day
Do show that they are not of God,
Despite what they may say.
For what are these Ten Words but this:
The will of God revealed?
For unto love to God and man
The saints are saved and sealed.
[Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 2004 (Founders Press) #35]

Oh That the Lord Would Guide My Ways (Isaac Watts, 1719)

1. Oh that the Lord would guide my ways
To keep His statutes still!
Oh that my God would grant me grace
To know and do His will!

2. Oh send Thy Spirit down to write
Thy Law upon my heart!
Nor let my tongue indulge deceit,
Nor act the liar’s part.

6. Make me to walk in Thy commands,
’Tis a delightful road;
Nor let my head, or heart, or hands
Offend against my God.
[Our Own Hymnbook—C.H. Spurgeon, 1866 #119 Song 2]

Not the Malicious, Nor Profane (Isaac Watts, 1709)

3. But we are washed in Jesus’ blood,
We’re pardoned through His Name;
And the good Spirit of our God
Has sanctified our frame.

4. O for a persevering power
To keep Thy just commands!
We would defile our hearts no more,
No more pollute our hands.
[Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 2004 (Founders Press) #50]

What other psalms, hymns and spiritual songs would you add to this list?