I've just about come to the end of C J Mahaney's little book Living the Cross Centered Life. It's one of the few books that I've known before I've finished that I will be rereading immediately....it's that powerful and I don't want to miss one bit of what the Lord wants me to get. I could talk about how I'd like it to be required reading for LBC over the next year but that's for another time.
For now I just want to quote a John Newton hymn that Mahaney included in the chapter I read yesterday. Newton's the guy who was a slave trader dramatically converted (is there any other kind of conversion....when that which is dead comes to life can it ever be anything other than dramatic....anyway....) and who subsequently encouraged Wilberforce to work for the abolition of the slave trade.
This hymn is extraordinary. The deep, wide and high Truth that it contains; the passion, emotion and real experience that it captures - it's just amazing. People say that hymns are a tremedous way of teaching good theology and this is a great example. I can't help but think that if we sung this each Sunday for six months then we'd gain richly from it.
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.
Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can 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.
Alas, I knew not what I did,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look He gave,
which said,“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.”
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit is now filled;
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
- John Newton
Just brilliant - gave me goose bumps when I read it in Waitrose drinking "cappuccino".
And if I had to pick one line....it would probably be....
"With pleasing grief and mournful joy" - what a wonderful description of the posture we should live with as Christians. It's Luther's simul justus et peccator (at one and the same time both justified/accepted and a sinner) and it's life changing! Oh that I might live this way....