Zion’s Blessedness in the Covenant of Grace – John Newton

IsaacNewtonOn Sunday, April 30, 1775, John Newton preached a sermon on 2 Samuel 23:5. on God’s covenant of grace with His people in Christ Jesus. In the evening he continued his sermon on this passage and also tied it to a hymn he had written on the glory of Zion, God’s church.

On this second Lord’s Day in September – also the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 (Sept.11, 2001 – Sept.11, 2016) – he has good words for us to consider, both in sermon and in hymn.

This is part of what he had to say in his sermon:

… we can promise or perform nothing. Therefore it is called a covenant of grace… This covenant of grace was established with and in our Lord Jesus Christ… making atonement for transgression with his own blood.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but they have a sure refuge and strong consolations provided in the covenant of grace. This secures them so that their enemies have no reason to rejoice over them. When they seem to fall they shall rise again. This is a balance to all their sufferings.
Believers – rejoice in this Covenant. Walk about this Sion, consider her foundations and all the towers thereof and mark well the bulwark. See how it is fixed upon an immoveable rock, guarded by almighty power, encompassed with infinite love, and enriched with all desirable blessings, and then with a holy indifference to all the trials of the present hour, rejoice and say, Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered and sure, etc.

During the evening service of that date, Newton tied his sermon to this hymn he had written based on Isaiah 33:20-21. We know it as “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” It is from Book 1 of the “Olney Hymns.”

Zion, or the city of God

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode:
On the rock of ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Round each habitation hovering,
See the cloud and fire appear!
For a glory and a covering,
Showing that the Lord is near:
Thus deriving from their banner
Light by night, and shade by day;
Safe they feed upon the manna
Which he gives them when they pray.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God:
‘Tis his love his people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, his solemn praises
Each for a thank-offering brings.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am;
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion’s children know.

 

Prayers of the Reformers (14)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this second Lord’s Day in April we post another prayer from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958).

This prayer is taken from the section “Prayers in Time of Affliction and Suffering” and, as you will see, is fitting for us as we gather with God’s people in worship today.

The editor gives it the German title “Wenn wir in hochsten Nothen sein,” (from Paul Eber, 1566 based on a text from Joachim Camerarius, 1546) while the prayer itself is in English arranged in poem form thus:

When in the hour of utmost need
We know not where to look for aid,
When days and nights of anxious thought
Nor help nor counsel yet have brought.

Then this our comfort is alone,
That we may meet before Thy throne,
And cry, O faithful God, to Thee
For rescue from our misery.

To Thee may raise our hearts and eyes,
Repenting sore with bitter sighs,
And seek Thy pardon for our sin
And respite from our griefs within.

For Thou hast promised graciously
To hear all those who cry to Thee
Thro’ Him whose name alone is great,
Our Savior and our advocate.

And thus we come, O God, today
And all our woes before Thee lay;
For sorely tried, cast down, we stand,
Perplexed by fears on every hand.

O hide not for our sins Thy face,
Absolve us through Thy boundless grace,
Be with us in our anguish still,
Free us at last from every ill.

That so with all our hearts we may
Once more our glad thanksgivings pay,
And walk obedient to Thy Word,
And now and ever praise the Lord.

An Internet search reveals that this is a hymn set to music under the title “When in the Hour of Utmost Need, ” arranged by Louis Burgeois (c.1510-1559), as part of the Genevan tunes.

Hymns on the Passion and Death of Christ – A.Toplady

ATopladyFor our reflection on the sufferings and death of Christ today we post these two poems by Augustus M. Toplady, one set to music in a familiar hymn, the other perhaps not as well known but also edifying and comforting. Both of these are taken from the website poemhunter.com.

Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the Water and the Blood,
From thy riven Side which flow’d,
Be of Sin the double Cure,
Cleanse me from its Guilt and Pow’r.

Not the Labours of my Hands
Can fulfil thy Law’s demands:
Could my Zeal no respite know,
Could my Tears for ever flow,
All for Sin could not atone:
Thou must save, and Thou alone!

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, SAVIOUR, or I die!

Whilst I draw this fleeting Breath–
When my Eye-strings break in Death–
When I soar through tracts unknown–
See Thee on thy Judgment-Throne–
ROCK of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in THEE!

Fountain Of Never-Ceasing Grace

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.

Whom heaven’s angelic host adores,
Was slaughtered for our sin;
The guilt, O Lord was wholly ours,
The punishment was Thine:
Our God in the flesh, to set us free,
Was manifested here;
And meekly bare our sins, that we
His righteousness might wear.

Imputatively guilty then
Our substitute was made,
That we the blessings might obtain
For which His blood was shed:
Himself He offered on the cross,
Our sorrows to remove;
And all He suffered was for us,
And all He did was love.

In Him we have a righteousness,
By God Himself approved;
Our rock, our sure foundation this,
Which never can be moved.
Our ransom by His death He paid,
For all His people giv’n,
The law He perfectly obeyed,
That they might enter heav’n.

As all, when Adam sinned alone,
In his transgression died,
So by the righteousness of One,
Are sinners justified,
We to Thy merit, gracious Lord,
With humblest joy submit,
Again to Paradise restored,
In Thee alone complete.

Our souls His watchful love retrieves,
Nor lets them go astray,
His righteousness to us He gives,
And takes our sins away:
We claim salvation in His right,
Adopted and forgiv’n,
His merit is our robe of light,
His death the gate of heav’n.

Two Sonnets of Winston W. Wharton (Cactus Rose)

CactusRose-cover-1941Today while making a quick pass through a local thrift store, I found a thin collection of poems that turns out to be a rare treasure (note the price on Amazon). The collection is called Cactus Rose or Streamlined Sonnets composed by Winston W. Wharton (a pen name?) and published by the Christian Board of Publication, St.Louis, MO, in 1941 (1st edition). This copy is signed by the author, about whom I would like to know more (an Internet search revealed precious little?!). Perhaps this post will generate some interest and some more information.

Cactus-Rose-Wharton-1941

In any case, the sonnets are quite good, many of them on nature themes (birds, flowers, nature scenes, etc.), with quite a few also being on distinctively Christian-biblical themes. Tonight I give you a sample of two such poems of Wharton. I trust they will edify you as they did me.

“Thy Will Be Done”

The hours I spend with Thee, dear Lord,
Are portents of the years to be,
When I shall know, where now I know in part,
Thy love for me, Thy love for me.

Each hour a breath of life Divine,
Fresh from thy incensed mercy seat;
I drink and feel my soul renewed
And kneel and kiss Thy feet.

O, Risen Lord, hold thou my hand,
Until at last goes down the sun,
And help me answer to each blest command
Thy will be done, O Lord, Thy will be done.

“The Angel of the Lord”

Arise, O soul of mine,
And face the stern array
Of forces unforeseen,
That dog us night and day;
Be not afraid to stand
And fight the battle out –
The angel of the Lord
Encampeth round about.

It seems sometimes the night
Has superseded day,
That hell is running things
And righteousness don’t pay;
But, be thou strong and stand
Amid the din and shout –
The angel of the Lord
Encampeth round about.

Our God is not asleep,
Nor is His arm grown short;
He watches every man
And leadeth each cohort;
And, though the foe may seem
To win, he’s on the rout –
The angel of the Lord
Encampeth round about.

So, trust you in our God,
Jehovah, Lord of Hosts;
He harbors him who trusts
And laughs at him who boasts;
A shelter still have we –
The shadow of His wings –
The angel of the Lord
Encamps, encores and sings.
Psalm 34:7.

The Wonders of Redemption – Anne Steele

Asteele-quote

For our meditation on the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ in this time of year, we consider today this poem of Anne Steele (1717-1778).

The Wonders of Redemption
I Peter iii. 18.

I. And did the holy and the just,
The Sov’reign of the skies,
Stoop down to wretchedness and dust,
That guilty worms might rise?

II. Yes, the Redeemer left his throne,
His radiant throne on high,
(Surprizing mercy! love unknown!)
To suffer, bleed and die.

III. He took the dying traitor’s place,
And suffer’d in his stead;
For man, (O miracle of grace!)
For man the Saviour bled!

IV. Dear Lord, what heav’nly wonders dwell
In thy atoning blood?
By this are sinners snatch’d from hell,
And rebels brought to God.

V. Jesus, my soul, adoring bends
To love so full, so free;
And may I hope that love extends
It’s sacred pow’r to me?

VI. What glad return can I impart,
For favours so divine?
O take my all,—this worthless heart,
And make it only thine.

Here is some biographical material on the author:

Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire, in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton. Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip. At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married but her fiance drowned the day of the wedding. On the occasion of his death she wrote the hymn “When I survey life’s varied scenes.” After the death of her fiance she assisted her father with his ministry and remained single. Despite her sufferings she maintained a cheerful attitude. She published a book of poetry Poems on subjects chiefly devotional in 1760 under the pseudonym “Theodosia.” The remaining works were published after her death, they include 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms, and about 50 poems on metrical subjects.

Dianne Shapiro (from Dictionary of National Biography, 1898 and Songs from the hearts of women by Nicholas Smith, 1903

This material was taken from the website Hymnary.org. For more on Anne Steele and her poetry visit this page.

Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 7:26 AM  Leave a Comment  

Shut Not Your Doors to Me, Proud Libraries

library-world historyToday’s brief culture feature is a few lines from noted American poet Walt Whitman, whose ode to libraries was the “poem of the day” sent to my email this day from poets.org.

Shut Not Your Doors to Me, Proud Libraries

Walt Whitman, 18191892

Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;
A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything;
A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect;
But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad!
It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.

To learn more about Mr.Whitman, visit the same website. Below are a few paragraphs to get you started.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, the second son of Walter Whitman, a housebuilder, and Louisa Van Velsor. The family, which consisted of nine children, lived in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and 1830s.

At the age of twelve, Whitman began to learn the printer’s trade, and fell in love with the written word. Largely self-taught, he read voraciously, becoming acquainted with the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the Bible.

Whitman worked as a printer in New York City until a devastating fire in the printing district demolished the industry. In 1836, at the age of seventeen, he began his career as teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He continued to teach until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career.

Published in: on February 6, 2016 at 1:26 PM  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Song – Thelma Westra

PoemsofPraise-TWestraAs we continue to meditate on the Wonder of grace, the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ during this week of Christmas, we consider a poem written by Mrs. Thelma Westra, a fellow church member at Faith PRC.

It is taken from her  collection of Christian poetry titled Poems of Praise (self-published), and is titled “Christmas Song” (p.58). The piece may also be sung to the tune of Psalter #278.

The shepherds, watching in the field
On that first Christmas night
Were startled when the Lord revealed
A wondrous heav’nly light.

An angel, robed in white array,
To them this message brought:
‘Fear not, for unto you today
A miracle is wrought!

‘The very Son of God and man
Has been brought forth on earth,
So hasten now to Bethlehem
To witness of His birth.’

So we today proclaim the praise
Of Him Who came to die
That we may live, and voices raise
In praise to God on High.

Glory and Praise – in Poem and Song

prayersofreformers-manschreckOn this Saturday night, still full of blessing from our two end-of-year public Hope Heralds’ concerts in the Grand Rapids, MI area in this past week (First CRC, Jenison, MI last Sunday and St. Adalbert’s Basilica last night), I post first of all this beautiful poem from the book Prayers of the Reformers (edited by C.Manschreck, published by Muhlenberg Press, 1958).

Glory and praise

All glory be to God on high,
Who hath our race befriended!
To us no harm shall now come nigh,
The strife at last has ended;
God showeth His good will to men,
And peace shall reign on earth again;
O thank Him for His goodness.

We praise, we worship Thee, we trust,
And give Thee thanks for ever,
O Father, that Thy rule is just,
And wise, and changes never;
Thy boundless power o’er all things reigns,
Thou dost whate’er Thy will ordains:
Well for us that Thou rulest!

O Jesus Christ, our God and Lord,
Son of Thy Heavenly Father,
O Thou Who hast our peace restored
And the lost sheep dost gather,
Thou Lamb of God, to Thee on high,
From out our depths, we sinners cry:
Have mercy on us, Jesus!

O Holy Ghost, Thou precious Gift,
Thou Comforter unfailing,
O’er Satan’s snares our souls uplift,
And let Thy power, availing,
Avert our woes and calm our dread;
For us the Saviour’s Blood was shed:
We trust in Thee to save us!
Nikolaus Decius, 1526

And with that I give you two videos from our recent concerts – “God is Gone Up with a Shout” from First CRC and “How Great Thou Art” from St.Adalbert’s.

Published in: on September 19, 2015 at 10:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness – J.Walker

Passing-Through-JWalker-2015Such is the title of a brand new book published by Reformation Heritage Books, which was sent to me for review. The author is Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England, who also authored the popular book A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ. 

In Passing Through, Walker attempts to answer the question of the Christian’s relationship to the world. After establishing the significance of the question and the contemporary danger of worldliness, he points out that we can be guided by Christ’s prayer in John 17:14-19 (which see here). As he opens up this passage, he starts by making this important point:

Here in John 17 the Lord speaks of Christians as those who, having been given His world, now sustain a relationship to the world that is conditioned by their likeness to and connection with Him: ‘They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ But notice further that the Lord does not pray that the world would be taken away or that we would be taken out of the world. Instead He pleads that we would be protected and preserved from the evil one as we make our way in the world. Our relationship to the world is conditioned by and patterned after His own. So the Savior prays that we would be holy in this world – living distinctively and increasingly as those who belong to and are set apart by and for God – under the influence of the truth of God. He desires that we should conduct ourselves in accordance with the purposes for which we have been sent in just the same way that the Son was sent by the Father. To this end and for this purpose, on our behalf the Son sanctified Himself: He consecrated Himself entirely and without reserve, committing Himself entirely to His duty before God in such a way as to secure the same end for His people (p.3).

I have been doing some more reading in the book and am being edified by Walker’s presentation of the life of the Christin as a pilgrim. By the way, Walker derives his title from a poem by Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), which I also post here:

Passing Through

I walk as one who knows that he is treading
A stranger soil;
As one round whom a serpent-world is spreading
Its subtle coil.

I walk as one but yesterday delivered
From a sharp chain;
Who trembles lest the bond so newly severed
Be bound again.

I walk as one who feels that he is breathing
Ungenial air;
For whom as wiles, the tempter still is wreathing
The bright and fair.

My steps, I know, are on the plains of danger,
For sin is near;
But looking up, I pass along, a stranger,
In haste and fear.

This earth has lost its power to drag me downward;
Its spell is gone;
My course is now right upward, and right onward,
To yonder throne.

Hour after hour of time’s dark night is stealing
In gloom away;
Speed thy fair dawn of light, and joy, and healing,
Thou Star of day!

For thee its God, its King, the long-rejected,
Earth groans and cries;
For thee the long-beloved, the long-expected,
Thy bride still sighs!

On the RHB website is posted the Table of contents, which I give you here so that you can see how Walker handles the subject.

Table of Contents:

  1. A Way in the World
  2. Strangers and Pilgrims
  3. Understand the Environment
  4. Know the Enemy
  5. Fight the Battles
  6. Pursue the Mission
  7. Respect the Authorities
  8. Alleviate the Suffering
  9. Appreciate the Beauty
  10. Anticipate the Destiny
  11. Cultivate the Identity
  12. Serve the King

If any of our readers wish to review the book in more detail for the Standard Bearer, contact me and the book is yours.

“Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” – W.Cowper

In times of inexpressible anguish and grief, the words of favorite psalms and familiar hymns have a power to speak peace to our hearts, by the work of God’s Spirit and the grace of our Savior.

This one came to mind today, as our hearts break for a young PRC couple who lost their eight-year old son two days ago.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

For a beautiful musical arrangement of this hymn, listen to this version as sung by the St.Michael’s Singers.
For more on the background to this hymn, visit Tim Challies post on it here.
Published in: on June 3, 2015 at 10:19 PM  Leave a Comment  
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