For years, I heard C.J. Mahaney reference a John Newton hymn that began with the lines, “In evil long I took delight.” Newton imagines the Savior looking down at him twice from the cross. The first look communicates our guilt and responsibility for the death of Christ. The second look assures us that this sacrifice forever secures our forgiveness before God. The two looks together fill us with a “pleasing grief and mournful joy.”
“Pleasing grief and mournful joy” describe well the proper response to Christ’s death on the cross. I can never grieve long over what it cost the Savior to redeem me before my heart wells up in joy that his death has brought down the blessings of heaven on my life. I can never rejoice too long in my forgiveness and reconciliation to God without remembering with sadness the infinite cost required to achieve that reconciliation.
A while back I was so affected by the lyrics to Newton’s hymn that I set an adapted version of the text to music, and added a chorus that gives us an opportunity to respond in joyful praise to this demonstration of “pure atoning grace.”
You can download or listen to it here.
Here are the lyrics:
I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed His loving eyes on me
As near His cross I stood
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke
My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there
But with a second look He said
“I freely all forgive
this blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live”
Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place
Thus while His death my sin displays
For all the world to view
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed.
Original lyrics by John Newton. New and alternate lyrics and music by Bob Kauflin. © 2001 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
You can find the original lyrics here, and can download the guitar chart, lead sheet, piano score, and string arrangement at the Sovereign Grace Music site.
Bob this is a great song. It was the first song that introduced me to (and got me hooked on) Sovereign Grace Music. The Christian Union at Durham University used to have it sung as a solo in their evangelistic Easter service. Very powerful.
Do you sing it congregationally? I can’t ever imagine doing so?
Tim, thanks for the encouraging words. Yes, it’s worked for us congregationally.
These are some of the most moving lyrics Newton wrote. I also have written a fresh setting for them, but yours is superior to mine in that you’ve recorded it and I have not. :)
Well writ, well sung. A beautiful melody and fitting refrain. Thanks for letting us sample it.
we love this song, so much so we translated it into Spanish for use in our Good Friday service. Here are the words in Spanish:
En un madero a uno vi en sangre y dolor
Posó sus ojos sobre mí, de pie, junto a su cruz
Y yo jamás podré olvidar la mirada que me dio
Pareció acusarme de su fin, mas ni una frase habló.
La culpa me sobrepasó, me hundí en aflicción
Vi mi pecar clavándolo y su sangre vertir
Mas cuando me volvió a mirar me dijo con perdón
“Mi sangre tu rescate es, mi muerte es tu vivir”.
Y yo jamás podré olvidar la mirada al expirar
De quien crucifique.
Y hoy mi vida alabará esa gracia sin igual
Que me miró tomando mi lugar.
Su muerte expone mi pecar, no puedo ya ocultar
Su gracia es un misterio tal, perdón me aseguró
De alegría y de pesar mi vida llena está
¿Cómo entender que al que maté me de la vida a mí?
Thanks, Robert! Would you mind sending a copy of this, with a translation back to English, to Brittany at firstname.lastname@example.org? Thanks so much for your encouragement!
This is maybe my favorite Bob Kauflin song ever and today I had the special treat of hearing the Boyce College Choir sing it at the school where I teach music. And you daughter was in the choir. How very cool! It was nice to get to meet some of them and to serve them as our guests at OBI. Just want to share this with you. :)
Tim, thanks for your kind words!
This is simply one of the most beautiful songs I have heard! I especially like the additional chorus, Very uplifting.
I would like to add the lyrics as an entry to my blog, with copyright and a linkback to your site. I would like for my readers to be able to hear it sung as well.
Thank you for all the work you do for the Lord and the Church as a whole.
In His Peace,
Joe, thanks for your encouraging words. Please feel free to post it. We have a great Savior!
There is also a beautiful setting of an a cappella anthem for choir based on Newton’s original text – sorry I can’t think of the title or composer at the moment. Such a strong text. Thanks for posting – nice job on your setting…