“Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet”

"…Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isa. 1.18)

     INTRO.: A hymn which takes its title and thought from God’s plea to Israel through the prophet Isaiah is "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet" (#313 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #611 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mrs. Frances Jane Crosby VanAlstyne, better known as Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). The tune (Compassion or Crimson) was composed by William Howard Doane (1832-1915). The song first appeared in the 1876 Gospel Music compiled for Biglow and Main by Doane and Robert Lowry (1826-1899).

     Unlike many other Crosby-Doane collaborations, this song had not come into popular usage when it was discovered by George Coles Stebbins (1846-1945). Impressed with its possible usefulness if some slight changes were made, he found various unnecessary repetitions which he eliminated without materially changing the author’s theme. The changes were submitted to Doane, who cordially consented to its publication in that form. Stebbins’s arrangement first appeared in the 1887 Gospel Hymns No. 5 intended for soprano and tenor duet.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during 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; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 (where it was arranged as a soprano-alto duet), and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be 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; and the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; in addition to Sacred Selections, Hymns for Worship, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.  The 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand uses an arrangement for all four parts made for the 1956 Baptist Hymnal edited by Walter Hines Sims.

     It has been used very effectively as an invitation hymn.

I. Stanza 1 makes the plea
"Though your sins be as scarlet, They shall be as white as snow;
Though your sins be as scarlet, They shall be as white as snow.
Though they be red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Though your sins be as scarlet, Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow, They shall be as white as snow."
 A. Sin is the most serious problem with which mankind must deal: Rom. 3.23, 6.23
 B. Sin is here likened to scarlet, red, or crimson probably because it is such a noticeable color: Josh. 2.18-21
 C. In contrast, white is the symbol of purity probably because it denotes that which has been washed and is clean: Ps. 51.7, Mk. 9.3

II. Stanza 2 offers the invitation
"Hear the voice that entreats you: O return ye unto God!
Hear the voice that entreats you: O return ye unto God!
He is of great compassion, And of wondrous love.
Hear the voice that entreats you, Hear the voice that entreats you:
O return ye unto God! O return ye unto God!"
 A. God wants us to hear His voice as revealed in His word: Ps. 95.7
 B. This voice entreats us to return unto God, just as He called upon wayward Israel to return to Him: Jer. 3.12
 C. We can be assured that we can return to Him because He is of great compassion and love: Ps. 86.15

III. Stanza 3 explains the reason
"He’ll forgive your transgressions And remember them no more;
He’ll forgive your transgressions And remember them no more.
‘Look unto me, ye people,’ Saith the Lord your God!
He’ll forgive your transgressions, He’ll forgive your transgressions,
And remember them no more, And remember them no more."
 A. God has declared that He is willing to forgive our transgressions: 1 Jn. 1.9
 B. And when God forgives our transgressions, He will remember them no more: Heb. 8.12
 C. Therefore, He calls upon us to look unto Him: Isa. 45.22

      CONCL.: Fanny Crosby was well-known for her work among the missions of New York City and elsewhere that were designed to help people who were down and out to see their need of Christ. She wrote songs about the need to seek the lost ("Rescue the Perishing") and songs inviting the lost to come to the Lord ("Jesus Will Give You Rest" and "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling"). There is no greater message that we can tell a sinful world than that "You can still be saved by the grace of God through the blood of Christ upon obedience to the gospel, even ‘Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet.’"


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