Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our faith is built upon Thy promise free...

In this morning's worship we opened with the hymn I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art.  I so enjoyed singing this song of praise and worship that I decided to google it in order to find out who wrote it.  Although not dispositive, there is evidence that it was written by John Calvin.  Yes, I know the RPW psalmody-only-chorus will object and point out that Calvin was a Psalms-only-man and that the hymn could very well have been penned by Jean Garnier.  For purposes of this post it is really not an issue.  But here is a blip that weighs in for Calvin:

The hymn first appeared in the 1545 Strasbourg Psalter, the very same year Calvin produced the new liturgy for his old congregation. Is it not possible that he wrote the hymn for them too? According to Philip Schaff, it was also discovered in ‘an old Genevese prayer-book.’ (Christ in Song, Anson Randolph, New York, 1869, 678). While external evidence might not be conclusive (see Bushell, op.cit., [Michael Bushell, The Songs of Zion, Crown and Covenant Publications, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1980."] p.199, n. 56), strong internal evidence of style and piety comparing the hymn with Calvin’s recorded prayers arguably strengthens Schaff’s case for Calvin’s authorship of the hymn.  
The Westminster Directory of Public Worship (1645) article by Alan Clifford, 1989 
The lyrics:
I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Saviour of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place:
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
O comfort us in death's approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by thy pow'r.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast thou and no bitterness:
Make us to taste the sweet grace found in thee
And ever stay in thy sweet unity.

Our hope is in no other save in thee;
Our faith is built upon thy promise free;
O grant to us such stronger hope and sure
That we can boldly conquer and endure.

In particular I loved the last stanza and, in light several of my recent posts (here, here, and here) on faith, I want to expand on "Our faith is built upon thy promise free."  His promise free, the gospel, is the food that feeds and builds our faith.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness... 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all...
(Romans 4) ESV

In the ears of the hearer, the proclamation of the good news of God's free and gratuitous salvation in Christ Jesus is that which initiates, nourishes, and builds faith.  That growing faith in Christ alone, apart from any works of our own, is at the center of what strengthens our sure hope and is inseparable from our sanctification... our conquering and endurance.  This faith is not some empty effort exerted by the hearer, but a work and gift of the Spirit who, through the preaching of the Word, presents Christ crucified as food to his people... the sure and only refuge in their sojourn.  The presentation of God's free promise of righteousness through faith to all that believe is food for the soul on every Lord's day.  And it is reinforced as the Lord's people partake of Christ's body and blood in the Supper.  In the words of the Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer:

THE Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.
THE Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful. 

Personally, I'm partial to the idea that this hymn was composed by Calvin.  But regardless of who was the author, the truths contained therein are both solid and eternal.

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