Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ultimate optimism

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I'll sing Thy power to save:
I'll sing Thy power to save, I'll sing Thy power to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song I'll sing Thy power to save.
William Cowper, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood

Mark Dever remarks on the appalling materialism of the contemporary church. Health and wealth and growth and successful programs obscure the most important truth. We live out our faith day by day - but the reason for our actions is not their temporal but their eternal significance and the hope we have to be with God in eternity.
...The western church has too often allowed Marxist/secularist critiques to rob us of the joy we should have in our confidence of final and forever fellowship with God.

And so hymns about the afterlife vanish.

In my own denomination's hymnals, hymns about the afterlife drop in number from over 100 in the late 19th century to about 15 in the latest Baptist Hymnal (1991). Remaining hymns are neutered. The Baptist hymnal (1975 & 1991) both omit the wonderful 5th stanza from Cowper's great hymn "There is a Fountain." If you have the 1956 Baptist Hymnal you can still find it. "When this poor lisping stammering tongue Lies silent in the grave, Then in a nobler, sweeter song I'll sing Thy power to Save." Our reluctance to sing about the grave in church on Sunday only reveals how much our hopes have been entrusted to this life - and we do not wish to conceive of them being lost. Our treasures have been put too much in this world.

The wonderful optimism that is Christian is all about being adopted by the Father we rejected, and being forgiven by the husband we cheated on. It is about being accepted by the Righteous Judge, and about being embraced by the Friend we betrayed. All of this is sure in Christ. About all of these matters, there is no room for pessimism.

On other more temporary issues - how the community will respond to our church - how much our various cultures will affirm freedom for Christian proclamation and practice - we have no Biblical promises....
Source: Together for the Gospel

1 comment:

  1. I love this hymn and particularly this verse I find very powerful (as cancer has left me with one functional vocal chord), but am disappointed that Cowper didn't make more explicit the resurrection hope: that this poor, lisping stammering tongue will not be left in the grave, but will one day itself sing the nobler, sweeter song in glorious new life.

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