And can it be?

Last Advent, I did a short series here on the blog on the songs of the season. I gained so much from the research I did on those posts that I’m doing a similar series now for Lent. As with last time, I’ll start and close with a hymn by Charles Wesley (purely coincidental then and now!).

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caus’d his pain—
For me who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be,
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! how can it be,
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mist’ry all, th’ Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine;
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore:
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father’s throne above;
So free, so infinite his grace!
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free—
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, with all in him, is mine;
Alive in Him my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’ eternal throne
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

I love the sense of amazement that this hymn exudes; Wesley is so taken by the grace so freely offered to a sinner like him—kind of like the apostle Paul now that I think of it.
Going stanza by stanza:

  • The first stanza is full of wonder: a personalised, internalised wonder. The pronouns are all I, me and my, but the hymn writer is thoroughly God-focused.
  • The second stanza builds on the last phrase in 1 Peter 1:12. If it was incomprehensible that God would die for me (stanza 1), how much more incomprehensible is it that God would die?
  • The third stanza echoes Philippians 2:7-8. Lest we forget, the last line of this stanza goes back to the sense of being baffled.
  • Before Christ, Wesley was like a chained prisoner in a dark dungeon. All it took to turn that situation on its head was one ray of light from Christ, and he was set free to follow his liberator.
  • In the last stanza, Wesley appropriates Romans 8:1 and Hebrews 4:16 for himself. Yet he doesn’t lose sight of the reason he could do that: it’s all because of Christ.

Dear Lord, may I never lose my wonder at your lavish grace!

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