“May the Grace of Christ Our Savior”

"May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" (Rev. 22.21)

     INTRO.: A hymn which speaks of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and asks that it be with us is "May the Grace of Christ Our Savior" (#549 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The original text was written by John Newton, who was born in London, England, on July 24, 1725. His religious mother died when he was seven. After spending four years with a foster family and attending boarding school, he ran away at age eleven and joined the ship of his irreligious sea-captain father as an apprentice.  But he had become a rebellious youth, and his father rejected him, so he ran away again and served on other ships throughout the Mediterranean region. In 1743, at age eighteen, he was impressed into the British navy to work on a man-of-war, but soon deserted. However, he was caught, put in irons, and publicly whipped. Defiant, he signed on board the slave ship Harwich bound for Africa. Once ashore, he fell into the depths of vice and turned to working for a white slave trader but was abused by the slaver’s black wife who finally had him imprisoned. Just 21, he managed to escape and found a ship that took him back to England. Yet, it was not long before he was master of his own slave ship, walking the bridge with a gun in one hand and a whip in the other to keep his captives in line.

     However, in 1748, at the age of 23, Newton was sailing from Brazil back to England. There was a terrible storm in which his ship, the Greyhound, was almost destroyed and he nearly lost his life. After nine hours of manning the pumps, he prayed, "If this will not do, the Lord have mercy on us." Things were secured, and to pass the time away while recovering from his exhaustion, he began reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. As he stepped off the plank in Southampton, he was sick both physically and spiritually. Two years later, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Catlett, and determined eventually to leave the sea. After sixteen years of self-education, while he also worked as a tide surveyor and clerk at the port of Liverpool, he became a minister of the Anglican Church in 1864 at age 39 and began work with the small church at Olney, England, where he stayed for fifteen years. During this time, he produced many hymns and in 1779 published the three volumes of his Olney Hymns in collaboration with poet William Cowper. It was compiled for weeknight prayer services conducted by the church and contained 282 of Newton’s texts, including "May the Grace of Christ Our Savior" (in Volume III) and perhaps his most famous hymn, "Amazing Grace."

     Other well known hymns by Newton include "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken," "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds," and "Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare." In 1780, Newton moved to the St. Mary’s Church in Woolnoth, London, where he remained until he died. Shortly before he died, he was asked about retiring because of failing health and replied, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things–that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior." He also said, "Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?" After his death in London on Dec. 21, 1807, at age 82, these words were engraved on his tombstone: "John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy. Near sixteen years at Olney in Bucks; and 27 years in this church." His closing hymn, "May the Grace of Christ Our Savior," was originally in one eight-line stanza. Most books today, beginning with The Methodist Hymnal of 1878, divide it into two. Many pair these with two additional stanzas by an anonymous author taken from an unknown source. The song has been set to many tunes. Hymns for Worship uses one (Omni Dei) taken from Michael Corner’s Gesangbuch of 1631.

     Some older books use a tune (Columbiana) dated 1859 by D. P. White.  A modern arrangement was made by Rolund U. Green and likely first appeared in the 1983 (11th) edition of The Old School Hymnal, a Primitive Baptist hymnbook, of which Green was the editor. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the Newton text in two stanzas, with a tune (Stuttgart) attributed to C. F. Witt which is most often associated with the the hymn "God, My King, Thy Might Confessing" by Richard Mant, appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and today is found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann. The only other one of our commonly used hymnbooks in which I have been able to find the song is Hymns for Worship.

     The song asks that the grace of our Lord will go with us and praises Him for His goodness.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the grace of Christ, the Father’s love, and the Spirit’s favor
"May the grace of Christ our Savior, And the Father’s boundless love,
With the Holy Spirit’s favor, Rest upon us from above."
 A. The medium through whom God’s grace is made known to us is our Lord Jesus Christ: Acts 15.11
 B. Love is the very essence of the Father’s nature: 1 Jn. 4.8
 C. The function of the Holy Spirit was to reveal the truth: Jn. 16.13

II. Stanza 2 talks about abiding in union with each other and the Lord
"Thus may we abide in union With each other and the Lord,
And possess in sweet communion Joys which earth cannot afford."
 A. We must maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: Eph. 4.3
 B. This is part of walking in the light by which we have fellowship with God: 1 Jn. 1.7
 C. Only as we abide in Christ and in union with other Christians can we maintain the communion of the Holy Spirit: 2 Cor. 13.14

III. Stanza 3 talks about praising the Father of creation
"Praise the God of all creation; Praise the Father’s boundless love.
Praise the Lamb, our expiation, Priest and King enthroned above."
 A. We should praise the Father because He is the God of all creation: Gen. 1.1
 B. We should praise the Lamb because He is our expiation or atonement for sin: Jn. 1.29, Rom. 3.25
 C. We should also praise the Lamb because He is both Priest and King enthroned above: Heb. 8.1

IV. Stanza 4 talks about praising the Fountain of Salvation
"Praise the Fountain of salvation, Him by Whom our spirits live;
Undivided adoration To the one Jehovah give!"
 A. Jesus Christ is the Fountain of salvation: Zech. 13.1
 B. As John gives us a glimpse into heaven, He pictures the hosts of heaven who fall down before Him through whom we have salvation: Rev. 5.8-13
 C. Also, John had seen the living creatures praising the one true God, Jehovah, who sits upon the throne: Rev. 4.9-11

     CONCL.: This is a hymn that is especially appropriate to sing at the end of any service, Sunday or prayer meetings. When the exhorations of this song are fulfilled in our lives, it results in the spiritual union of God’s people with one another and with God Himself. Thus, it should ever be our desire to say, "May the Grace of Christ Our Savior" be with us.


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