As Pastor of Preaching at GFBC, part of my responsibility has been leading us to worship in a manner fitting our theology and philosophy of ministry. This has included developing a theological and practical approach to music that fits our doctrine. Most of this task now rests on the capable shoulders of Richard Rector, who has matured into a fine worship leader.
Our goal at GFBC is to sing music that is rich in theology, melody and lyric. As a result, most of our music consists of hymns written in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. We are not opposed to newer songs, however, there are few “new” songs that match the theological depth of Isaac Watts’s “How Sweet and Awful is the Place,” or Thomas Kelly’s “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted.” Singing most modern “praise choruses” next to these songs is a bit like wearing flip flops with a tuxedo. Nevertheless, we do enjoy the music of modern-day hymn writers like Keith Getty.
All this to say, we are constantly on the prowl for a lyric that will assist us as we strive to obey the apostle’s admonition to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16) So imagine my excitement when I came across this gem recently:
The Joyful Sound of the Gospel
by Ralph Erskine (1685-1752)
They ought, who royal grace's heralds be,
To trumpet loud salvation full and free;
Nor safely can, to humour mortal pride,
In silence evangelic myst'ries hide.
The revelation of the gospel flower,
Is still the organ framed of saving power:
Most justly then are legal Minds condemn'd,
That of the glorious gospel are asham'd;
For this the divine arm, and only this,
The power of God unto salvation is.
For therein is reveal'd to screen from wrath,
The righteousness of God from faith to faith,
The happy change-in guilty sinners' case
They owe to free displays of sovereign grace:
Whose joyful tidings of amazing love,
The ministration of the Spirit prove:
The glorious vent the gospel news express,
Of God's free grace, through Christ's full righteousness,
Is Heaven's gay chariot where the Spirit bides,
And in his conquering power triumphant rides.
I pray this song becomes a cherished companion as we walk through the Romans together for the next year or so at GFBC. Lyrics like these will definitely edify us as we seek to express the gospel in song as well as sermon. Now Richard will just have to find the music!