When you listen to music, do you focus on the melody or the lyrics? Certain people are able to carry the tune and remember the words, but my limited research suggests most are either words or music people. Here in Cleveland, we are able to enjoy one of the best orchestras in the world and find our spirits lifted by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or moved to tears by Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Music is a powerful gift from God. It is impossible to imagine a world without it. The apostle Paul urges his readers to encourage each other by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
It will come as no surprise when I declare myself a lyrics man. In light of that, and because this month we focus our thoughts on the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, here are three hymns to help us.
The first was written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander (1818–1895). She was the wife of a bishop in Northern Ireland, and along with her sister, she founded a school for the deaf. Of the four hundred hymns she wrote, a number were focused on instructing children in the faith. For Easter she wrote “There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” in which she explains that only Christ could pay the price of sin.
The second one comes from William Cowper (1731–1800). He was the son of a minister and one of the most popular poets of his time. His life was punctuated by periods of depression and was helped by the assurances of his friend John Newton. His often-troubled soul was assuaged by focusing on the finished work of Christ. He encourages us to sing,
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
Interestingly, the fourth verse of that hymn appears on Spurgeon’s tombstone in West Norwood Cemetery, London.
My third selection was written by Frederick Whitfield (1827–1904). Whitfield was born in Shropshire and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He served as curate in Otley, which is next door to Ilkley, my Yorkshire home. This is probably his best-known hymn in America:
There is a name I love to hear,
I love to speak its worth; …
It tells me of a Savior’s love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner’s perfect plea.
You will notice that each of these hymns begins with the same phrase, “There is a…” Each of them points to the blood of Christ which cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7).
No doubt you will have your own favorites to add to this selection. As I wish you a blessed Easter, let’s hear the exhortation of the psalmist: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).
With my love in the Lord Jesus,