By Vic Gill
The members of Grace Church Southall have been greatly blessed recently through the learning of a new hymn. When I say ‘new’ I actually mean old because the hymn, How Sweet and Aweful is the Place, was written in the 18th century by Isaac Watts. In a day when many churches are doing away with hymns, we as a church have found Scriptural richness and truth in this old hymn. Don’t get me wrong, I like new hymns and songs too, but there’s something in the way old hymns were written that causes me to take my eyes off myself and lift them up to the one who is from everlasting to everlasting.
Prior to introducing and singing the hymn in the church, the couples in the church were encouraged to go home, read it, discuss it and then sing it. Afterwards as a church, we did a Bible study and discussion about the lyrics and sang it out together with great joy. The lyrics needed a lot of digging through because of old english words such as ‘aweful’ which to the modern mind brings up an altogether different meaning. But this is where we as a church grew as we rolled up our sleeves and worked our way through it. I would highly encourage you and your church to do the same.
As we discussed the lyrics of the hymn and then sang them together, there was truly a sense of awe for God’s glory, the Great Commission and the need for continued Gospel proclamation in these lands and beyond. Only a redeemed sinner who has seen the glory of His Lord and the sinfulness of man can say ‘Lord, why was I a guest?’. The last stanza of the hymn really captures the mood of the hymn and reminds us that this hymn is all about the church with one voice singing His redeeming grace.
Read the lyrics below and click here to sing along via a Youtube clip.
How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there’s room
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin
Pity the nations, O our God
Constrain the earth to come
Send Thy victorious Word abroad
And bring the strangers home
We long to see Thy churches full
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul
Sing Thy redeeming grace
Words by Isaac Watts, music: ancient Irish melody