Friday, January 13, 2006

When I survey

I thought about this hymn this morning for some reason. Maybe it was because I have not heard it in so long. Our church is an awesome church. The Gospel is proclaimed there with fervor and the Bible is taught with great passion. But I miss the old hymns that 'preach' Christ. Don't get me wrong, there are some new songs that we sing that I really like. There's just something about those old hymns though that the new songs just don't have. I believe that something is the preaching of the Gospel right there in the midst of the hymn itself. This hymn by Isaac Watts may be my favorite hymn. Every time I hear this hymn I break down and cry and thank God for the sacrifice He made on my behalf.

When I survey the wondrous cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did ere such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o' er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.


Stacey said...

I really like the Michael W. Smith version of this old classic.

WayneDawg said...

I don't think I have heard that version but I'll see if I can find it. Thanks!

badbeans said...

The traditional or "old" hymns written in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th century have, in most cases, one thing in common with songs written in the mid to late 20th century and later: that is, that the songs speak of the relationship between God and man. But that is where the similarities end.

Here are a couple of differences to chew on next time you listen to more contemporary "Christian" music.

1. Early hymns are often times based on actual scripture. Sometimes the words are verbatim or restatements of actual scripture. Some hymnwriters, such as Watts, would reference the scripture whereon was the basis of the theme of the hymn. Some of todays contemporary songs do not have any scriptural basis whatsoever, and if what was espoused in some of these songs were spoken from pulpits, the preacher who made such statements would probably be ran out of town.

2. Early hymns speak of man's relationship with God from the perspective of God's providence for man and his majesty. Many of today's contemporary hymns and songs have a "me" theme, much like our society today. In the hymn on this blog, notice how the writer, when speaking of himself, diminishes himself to the majesty of Christ and his sacrifice. The language used conveys the unworthiness of man and the glory of Christ, as Christ is much above us. The song conveys something that most people, including myself, lack enough of: humility.

3. The earlier hymns are just downright poetic; todays songs and "hymns" are more po-lyrical, to use some street jargon. In other words, many of the writers appear to just put down some words to a catchy tune because they have another album to produce so that they can make the next meal. Writers such as Newton, Watts, Wesley, Robertson, etc., wrote songs not for their own recognition and the posterity of their legacy, but because these were true, heartfelt experiences that they felt. Consider the words of "Amazing Grace" for a moment.

Since there is no new thing under the sun, I will concede that not all of the earlier hymns were all Biblically based, nor are all of the contemporary songs un-Biblical and bad, but comparatively, for the most part, the earlier hymns are much preferred above the contemporary songs for the reasons above. Refer to for the Isaac Watts fanclub webpage. Or refer to for words of the some of the hymns that appear in some of the earlier hymnbooks.

Stacey said...

I'd have to disagree with that last comment. Many of the worship songs today speak TO God, while many of the hymns speak ABOUT God. Not that either are better or worse, but I think in my worship, I prefer to speak TO God, rather than ABOUT God. Just some food for thought.

Badbeans said...

I appreciate your viewpoint. I see the old hymns as elevating God to the much higher level that He is on, whereas many of the more contemporary songs bring Him more on a human level.

Some of the old hymns speak to God as well.


My God, my life, my love
To thee, to thee I call
I cannot live if thou remove
For thou art all in all.

Thy shining grace can cheer,
This dungeon where I dwell;
'Tis paradise when Thou art here,
If Thou depart 'tis hell.

The smilings of Thy face,
How amiable they are;
'Tis heav'n to rest in Thine embrace,
And nowhere else but there.

To Thee, and Thee alone,
The angels owe their bliss;
They sit around Thy gracious throne,
And dwell where Jesus is.

Not all the harps above,
Can make a heav'nly place;
If God His residence remove,
Or but conceal His face.

The above hymn addresses the relationship of God to man, but puts both man and God in proper perspective.

Just my opinion.

WayneDawg said...

Thanks for the comment Stacy.

There is in fact both, 'speaking about God' and 'speaking to God'in the older hymns. As an example, the words in the hymn I posted talks not only about what God did for us when we were yet sinners, but what the writer would like (the whole realm of creation) to give God, but can't. The writer sums up with the realization that all he can do for God is give him his soul, life and all.

Like I said, there are some new worships songs I really like and touch my heart as the old hymns do. I would just like to hear more of the older hymns again.

Stacey said...

Some good thoughts guys. I am not discounting the old hymns. There are some good ones. One thing I found interesting in studying about some of the history of old hymns is that m any were done to the tunes of old bar songs and such. I find that funny. At our church, we take "secular" songs many times, and turn them into workship songs. Using the tune, and sometimes the words. I think it really brings a new dimension to the way in which we worship. Using familiar things. Jesus himself did this with his parables.