When planning the songs for the Together for the Gospel conference with Mark Dever, he suggested a hymn that I knew about but had never sung. It’s called How Sweet and Awful is the Place, and was written by my historical hero, Isaac Watts. Numerous guys came up to me at the conference and told me how much the words had affected them. Terry Stauffer from Alberta, Canada blogged on it. As I was considering what to post this morning, the words of the hymn kept coming to mind.
1. How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.
2. While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
3. “Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
4. ‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
5. Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
6. We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.
By Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Public Domain.
Two thoughts stood out to me as we sang this hymn at the conference last week. First, it models a proper response to the glorious and mysterious doctrine of election. In light of our persistent, pervasive, and complete defiance of God’s commands, the question we should be asking is not, “Why aren’t some people saved?” but “How can anyone be saved?” More to the point, “Lord, why was I a guest? Why was I made to hear Your voice?” A true understanding of God’ sovereignty should produce a growing gratefulness, humility, and dependence in our lives.
Second, I was deeply affected by the expressed desire in the last verse. “We long to see your churches full” – not simply for the sake of numbers or our own reputation. We long to see God’s churches full with those whose hearts, voices, and souls sing of God’s redeeming grace, provided through the glorious Gospel. To see the church that our Savior redeemed with His own blood, passionately proclaiming with their lips and lives the good news that our sins have been paid for, and through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be fully reconciled to God and included in His gracious plans.
How sweet, how awe-ful, is this place – with Christ.