"SAVED BY GRACE"
"For by grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2.8)
INTRO.: A song which affirms that salvation is by grace is "Saved By Grace" (#453 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Frances Jane Crosby VanAlstyne, better known simply as Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). In 1891, when Fanny was 71, Dr. Howard Crosby, a distant relative of the author and a Presbyterian minister, preached a sermon at at Methodist Camp meeting at Poughkeepsie, NY, and said that no Christian should fear death, for if each one was faithful to the grace given by Christ, that same grace which taught him how to live would teach him how to die. Sources differ on whether Fanny heard the sermon herself or had it read from a newspaper or tract by her publisher, Lucius E. Biglow. A few days later, the speaker’s sudden death motivated Fanny to complete a poem beginning, "Some day the silver cord will break." It may be that she actually heard the sermon herself then, several days later, listened to Biglow read part of it when he told her the news of the speaker’s death. In any event, she gave the poem to Biglow, who paid her the usual $2 and filed it away in his vault. Fanny, who considered it one of her better poems, thought that it would be forgotten.
A couple of years later, (again, sources differ as to whether it was in 1893 or 1894; most say 1894, but it more likely was 1893), Fanny was attending a summer Christian Worker’s Conference at Northfield, MA, the home of the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who just happened to be in Europe at the time. During one meeting Ira D. Sankey asked asked Fanny if she would like to say something. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she declined at first, but when urged by Sankey and conference speaker Adoniram J. Gordon, she rose to speak and said, "There is one hymn I have written which has never been published. I call it my soul’s poem. Sometimes when I am troubled, I repeat it to myself, for it brings comfort to my heart." Then she quoted that poem beginning "Some day the silver chord will break" word for word. A reporter from the London, England, Christian Newspaper copied it down and requested permission to take it back to London to publish it. When it appeared in the newspaper, Sankey sent a copy to composer George Coles Stebbins (1846-1945). Sankey suggested that Stebbins provide a tune for it, which he did, asking Fanny to add a chorus. It was sung for the first time in a Moody meeting at Newport, RI, and published in 1894.
The stanzas were originally for soprano and alto only, and the most commonly used four-part arrangement was made by Seymour Swets (b. 1900). It was copyrighted in 1934 by the Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson. Today, it is found 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; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as in Sacred Selections, where it was arranged by the editor, Ellis J. Crum.
The song extols the grace of God by which we can hope to be saved when this life is over.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that God’s grace will bring us joy
"Some day the silver cord will break, And I no more as now shall sing;
But oh, the joy when I shall wake Within the palace of the King!"
A. The "silver cord" is a figurative reference that obviously has something to do with the process of growing old and dying: Eccl. 12.6-7
B. When that occurs, we shall no more as now sing because we shall be as those who are asleep: Jn. 11.11-14
C. However, God has promised His people that when they shall "awake" in His likeness: Ps. 17.15
II. Stanza 2 tells us that God’s grace is preparing us a home
"Some day my earthly house will fall, I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know–my All in All Has now a place in heaven for me."
A. The fall of the earthly house is also a figurative reference to death: 2 Cor. 5.1-6
B. Of course, we do not know exactly when this time will be, only that it is appointed for men to die once: Heb. 9.27
C. However, we can face it with the knowledge that Jesus is now preparing a place in His Father’s house for us: Jn. 14.1-3
III. Stanza 3 tells us that God’s grace will give us rest
"Some day, when fades the golden sun Beneath the rosy-tinted west,
My blessed Lord will say, ‘Well done!’ And I shall enter into rest."
A. The fading of the golden sun into the rosy-tinted west is still another figure of speech representing death: Jn. 9.4
B. However, God’s people have the hope that when they stand before Him in judgment, He will say well done: Matt. 25.21
C. Then, they will be able to enter into the eternal rest that God has prepared: Heb. 4.8-9
IV. Stanza 4 tells us that God’s grace motivates us to wait
"Some day: till then I’ll watch and wait, My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opes the gate, My soul to Him may take its flight."
A. Until that someday comes, we need to watch and wait: 1 Thess. 1.9-10
B. This waiting is symbolized by keeping our lamps all trimmed and burning bright: Matt. 25.1-13
C. Then, when He comes, our souls will be joined to resurrected bodies and take their flight to be with the Lord: 1 Cor. 15.51-53
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that whatever hope for eternal life that we have is by the grace of God.
"And I shall see Him face to face, And tell the story–Saved by grace;
And I shall see Him face to face, And tell the story–Saved by grace."
Some have objected to this song because it does not specifically mention anything about our obedience to the gospel of Christ. Those who understand the scriptures realize that nowhere does the Bible say or teach that we are saved by grace alone–and neither does the song. However, God’s word does plainly tell us that it is the grace of God that brings salvation. Therefore, in view of all that God has done to make our salvation possible, I cannot see why any Christian could not sing that we are "Saved By Grace."