A Hymn by Joseph Hart
Come, ye Christians, sing the praises of your condescending God;
Come and hymn the holy Jesus, who has washed us in His blood;
We are poor, and weak, and silly, and to every evil prone;
Yet our Jesus loves us freely, and receives us for His own.
Though we’re low in man’s opinion, He has made us priests and kings,
Power, glory and dominion to the Lamb the sinner sings;
Leprous souls, unsound and filthy, come before Him as you are:
‘Tis the sick man, not the healthy needs the good Physician’s care.
Hear the terms that never vary: “To repent and to believe”;
Both of these are necessary, both from Jesus we receive.
Would-be Christian, duly ponder these in your impartial mind
And let no man put asunder what the Lord has wisely joined.
Oh! beware of fondly thinking God accepts your for your tears!
Are the shipwrecked saved by sinking? Can the ruined rise by fears?
Oh! beware of trust ill-grounded; ’tis but fancied faith at most:
To be cured and not be wounded, to be saved before you’re lost.
No big words of ready talkers, no dry doctrine will suffice:
Broken hearts and humble walkers: these are dear in Jesus’ eyes;
Tinkling sounds of disputation, naked knowledge: all are vain!
Every soul that gains salvation must and shall be born again.
That’s a fascinating hymn on faith and repentance. Faith is not a set of propositions, but it is the result of the preaching of propositional truth, namely, the Gospel. My absolute favorite phrase from this hymn is “are the shipwrecked saved by sinking? Can the ruined rise by fears?”
The funny (or not-so-funny) part of all of this is that many folks think they are saved through the sincerity of their grief. Nowhere in scripture does it say really believe in your heart that Jesus is your personal Lord and savior.
Shouldn’t we truly believe that? Yes. But that belief is a fruit of God’s mercy toward us. In Acts 11:18, we’re told that repentance is granted by God Himself, not something we ourselves generate. This is a key element to understanding repentance (and one, by the way, which Thomas Watson seems to be missing over and over as I read his Doctrine of Repentance). Salvation, grace and faith are all gifts of God (Ephesians 2:8-10). So if we are truly repentant, this will show. But that sincerity isn’t what saves us; rather, it’s Christ’s death on the cross for our sins which saves us.
I heard a preacher ask just last night if the people in his audience were at peace with God. I raised my hand to the affirmative. I was one of two people there who did. The rest, he counseled, needed to fortify themselves with prayer and praise in order to make that peace. With all due respect, he was completely wrong. We are not made at peace with God by our obedience. We are made at peace with God by Christ.
The shipwrecked are not saved by sinking…and man is shipwrecked, shaking his fists at God. He wants God dead.
Enter, Christ. His gospel gives what the law demands…perfect obedience. And that obedience not only satisfies the wrath of God but brings us near so that we can be sanctified by the Spirit in the Godhead which has no fellowship with darkness.
The terms never change: repent and believe. I’m not appealing to your will. I’m preaching as unto the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Absurd? Yes.