"GRACE! ‘TIS A CHARMING SOUND"
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3.24)
INTRO.: A hymn which points out how we should be filled with joy that we can be justified by God’s grace is "Grace! ‘Tis a Charming Sound." The original text of four stanzas was written by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751). Its exact date is not known. Sometimes the year 1740 is given, but others think it was produced shortly before Doddridge’s death in 1751. However, it was not published until 1755 in Job Orton’s posthumous collection of Doddridge’s works, Hymns founded on Varous Texts in the Holy Scriptures. Doddridge is best known for the hymn "O Happy Day." Three more stanza were added by Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778). They were published in his 1776 Psalms and Hymns. Toplady is most remembered for the hymn "Rock of Ages."
The hymn has been set to several melodies, but the tune (Cranbrook) used in our books was composed by Thomas Clark, who was born at Canterbury in Kent, England, around Feb. 5, 1775. A cobbler and a choir trainer, Clark led the singing of the Psalms at the Wesleyan Chapel in Canterbury, and later at the Unitarian Chapel in Canterbury. It has been claimed that Clark never actually joined the Unitarians, but he obviously sympathized with them and he did resign from the Methodists. The date given for this tune in 1804. Clark is credited with six other tunes and produced a number of anthems, including "Awake Up, My Glory," "Daughter of Zion," and "Since I Have Placed My Trust." His other works include the 1805 First Sett of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, the 1810 Second Sett of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, The Sacred Gleaner of 1839, The Union Tune-Book of 1837, the 1841 Union Harmonist, and the second edition of the Union Tune Book in 1842. He died on May 30, 1859, at his home on St. George’s St. in Canterbury.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church in the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson. It is found today in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The hymn emphasizes the importance of God’s grace to us.
I. Stanza 1 says that grace is something in which we can rejoice
"Grace! ’tis a charming sound, Harmonious to the (orig. ‘mine’) ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound, And all the earth shall hear."
A. Grace should be a charming sound because it is by grace that we have been saved: Eph. 2.8-9
B. It should be harmonious to our ears because to each child of God grace has been given: Eph. 4.7
C. Also, all the earth should hear because the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared for all man: Tit. 2.11
II. Stanza 2 says that grace is essential to our salvation
"Grace first contrived a (orig. ‘the’) way To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that grace display Which drew the wondrous plan."
A. It was God’s grace that first contrived a way to save rebellious man: Matt. 1.21
B. Grace also displayed all the steps that enable us to have remission of sins: Acts 2.36-38
C. Thus, grace drew the wondrous plan for our redemption that God purposed in Christ Jesus: Eph. 3.10-11
III. Stanza 3 says that grace is the means to lead us and provide for our spiritual needs
"Grace led our wandering (orig. ‘my roving’) feet To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour we (orig. ‘I’) meet While pressing on to God."
A. It is by God’s grace that we can enter the strait gate and walk the narrow road: Matt. 7.13-14
B. It is also God’s grace that supplies all our needs: Phil. 4.19
C. Thus, continuing in God’s grace is necessary while pressing on: Phil. 3.13-14
IV. Stanza 4 says that grace makes possible an eternal home in heaven
"Grace all the work shall crown Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone, And well deserves our praise."
A. It is by grace that we can have the hope of the crown of life through everlasting days: Jas. 1.12
B. Heaven is pictured in scripture as a great city, and it is God’s grace that has laid the foundations to the very top stone: Rev. 21.19-20
C. Therefore, the grace of God well deserves our praise: Eph. 1.6
V. Stanza 5 says that grace has written our name in God’s book by bringing us to the Lamb
"Grace first inscribed my name In God’s eternal book;
‘Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb, Who all my sorrows took."
A. Those who accept His grace have their names written in the book of life: Rev. 21.11-15
B. But the only way to receive God’s grace is to come to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and it is even by grace that we can come to Him: Jn. 1.29
C. The reason that those who come to the Lamb receive God’s grace is
that He bore our sorrows: Isa. 53.4-6
VI. Stanza 6 says that grace makes it possible for us to approach God and keep us in His favor
"Grace taught my soul to pray And made mine eyes o’erflow;
‘Twas grace which kept me to this day And will not let me go."
A. Grace teaches our soul to pray in that it is by Christ that we have access into God’s grace: Rom. 5.1-2
B. This grace keeps us as we in turn keep ourselves in His love: Jude vs. 21-24
C. And this grace will not let us go because nothing can separate us from God’s love: Rom. 8.38-39
CONCL.: The final stanza added by Toplady says,
"O let Thy grace inspire My soul with strength divine;
May all my powers to Thee aspire, And all my days be Thine."
Clark’s tune is not an easy one to sing, and unfortunately for that reason the song is probably beyond the reach of some congregations that do not have altos and basses who can read music. However, for those who have the capability to sing it, the song is well worth the effort to learn it. Those of us who have been justified by God’s grace upon our obedience to the gospel can certainly say with conviction, "Grace! ‘Tis A Charming Sound."