Tuesday, March 18, 2008

sinners, turn: why will you die

Each day of Lent I am publishing one of Charles Wesley's hymns or poems. In my experience, the selection of Charles Wesley's hymns that we actually use in worship is very small. This is sad, because his hymns are filled with deep theological truths and great beauty.

Use these as a part of your Lenten disciplines, and share any thoughts or reactions in the comments.

Lent Day 36

Sinners, Turn: Why Will You Die
(United Methodist Hymnal #346)

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, your Maker, asks you why.
God, who did your being give,
made you himself, that you might live;
he the fatal cause demands,
asks the work of his own hands.
Why, you thankless creature, why
will you cross his love, and die?

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God your Savior, asks you why.
God, who did your souls retrieve,
died himself, that you might live.
Will you let him die in vain?
Crucify your Lord again?
Why, you ransomed sinners, why
will you slight his grace, and die?

Sinners, turn: Why will you die?
God, the Spirit, asks you why;
he, who all your lives hath strove,
wooed you to embrace his love.
Will you not his grace receive?
Will you still refuse to live?
Why, you long-sought sinners, why
will you grieve your God, and die?

You, on whom he favors showers,
you, possessed of nobler powers,
you, of reason's powers possessed,
you, with will and memory blest,
you, with finer sense endued,
creatures capable of God;
noblest of his creatures, why,
why will you forever die?

You, whom he ordained to be
transcripts of the Trinity,
you, whom he in life doth hold,
you, for whom himself was sold,
you, on whom he still doth wait,
whom he would again create;
made by him, and purchased, why,
why will you forever die?

You, who own his record true,
you, his chosen people, you,
you, who call the Savior Lord,
you, who read his written Word,
you, who see the gospel light,
claim a crown in Jesu's right;
why will you, ye Christians, why
will the house of Israel die?

Turn, he cries, ye sinners, turn;
by his life your God hath sworn;
he would have you turn and live,
he would all the world receive;
he hath brought to all the race
full salvation by his grace;
he hath no one soul passed by;
why will you resolve to die?

Can ye doubt, if God is love,
if to all his mercies move?
Will ye not his word receive?
Will ye not his oath believe?
See, the suffering God appears!
Jesus weeps! Believe his tears!
Mingled with his blood they cry,
why will you resolve to die?

  • Charles was brilliant.
  • The first three stanzas have a trinitarian form: Maker, Savior, Spirit. I'll forgive Charles if there's a hint of modalism there.
  • I've always loved the imagery of God wooing us sinners. I'm pleased to see it in the third stanza.
  • Stanza eight seems to be a direct response to the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement.

1 comment:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Along with the doctrine of limited atonement, it also is a direct response to irresistible grace. I think there is a bit too much of a hemi-Pelagian view of our freedom vis-a-vis the grace of God incarnate in Jesus Christ for my taste. While I accept the Arminianism of Wesleyan theology, I also think the situation is a bit more complex; the issue is not whether or not we will "die" by "not accepting" Christ, thus "crucifying him" again as the hymn seems to state. I have enough of Calvinism in me, via Karl Barth, to see that part of the equation as wholly in Divine hands. Rather, I believe that we have the choice to accept or refuse the demands of grace - the disciplined life of sanctification (or, in my case, the undisciplined life) - rather than the pivotal issue of justification. Of course, I also leave enough wiggle room to believe that, even if we refuse to believe, even if we refuse to countenance such a thing as God, or give any merit to the life and death of Jesus, GOd still smiles and says, in effect, "That's OK."

So, is there room for free will in all this? I think there is. It comes down to this - do we freely submit to the Providential and gracious will of God, or does God unfold the tapestry of our lives without our consent? I believe, also, BTW, that God would leave us alone, as it were, if we asked. Lisa and I talked about this once, and I said that I believe that if there were a person or two who, even after all was said and done, refused the grace of God, out of the profound and mysterious love that is God, God would turn those persons away, with a tear and a shake of the head. Real love includes accepting that sometimes it is unrequited.