The Wondrous Cross

In my last post, I wrote about John Stott, and his belief in the doctrine of the atonement as central to our Christian faith.  Some theologians today wish to downplay Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, even going so far as to call it “divine child abuse.”  (this reveals an improper understanding of the trinity, but that’s for another day).  Seems like many hymnists over the years disagree with this viewpoint, because there is an abundance of Christian songs which celebrate the cross.

Isaac Watts wrote one of them in 1707 — When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.  Watts is known as the father of English hymnody.  He broke tradition by publishing a book of hymns.  Most English churches at that time used only the Old Testament Psalms in public worship, but Watts believed that Christians should be able to celebrate all the aspects of the gospel proclaimed in the New Testament as well.  Below is a quote from the preface of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, in which he defends his view:

“Many Ministers and many private Christians have long groaned under this Inconvenience, and have wished rather than attempted a Reformation: At their importunate and repeated Requests I have for some Years past devoted many Hours of leisure to this Service. Far be it from my Thoughts to lay aside the Psalms of David in public Worship; few can pretend so great a Value for them as my self . . . But it must be acknowledged still, that there are a thousand Lines in it which were not made for a Saint in our Day, to assume as his own; There are also many deficiencies of Light and Glory which our Lord Jesus and his Apostles have supplied in the Writings of the New Testament; and with this Advantage I have composed these spiritual Songs which are now presented to the World.”

And here is his famous hymn about the wondrous cross:

For more hymns by Isaac Watts:

O God Our Help

Joy to the World


Most Certainly True

If you’ve read or been trained in the Lutheran Catechism, you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “this is most certainly true.”  It appears at the end of each of Luther’s explanations, a reminder that although most of life is uncertain, the things of the faith are not.  Recently my husband and I were vacationing near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where we were visiting with our daughter and our grandchildren.  We attended a Presbyterian Church one Sunday and I loved their confession of sin, because what it told me is most certainly true:

 From the Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4 (Of Repentance Unto Life).                                                                                                                                                      No sin is so small that it does not deserve damnation.  Nor is any sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

Romans 8:1

“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

(If you’re unfamiliar with the Westminster Confession of Faith, it is a systematic exposition of Calvinism, written from a Puritan viewpoint. It was originally drafted to reform the Church of England and to unify the various Christian sects in England at that time.  It addresses a variety of church doctrines).

Often people feel uncertain about whether their sins are really forgiven.  Maybe they have trouble forgiving themselves; maybe they are afraid that something they have done is so bad, it just isn’t forgivable. Martin Luther himself suffered from this anxiety.  He confessed over and over again without feeling absolved.  On the other hand, some are convinced their sins are so small, they don’t need forgiveness.  They are “good” people, at least in comparison to others. Neither attitude is correct.  We all need forgiveness, and through the atonement of Christ, we can all receive forgiveness.  Of that you can be certain.

For more on forgiveness see  these posts:

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

Forgiveness for Ourselves

Forgiveness: It Does a Body Good