Monday, October 24, 2011

Come, Holy Spirit, Guest Divine

Praise for the Lord #94

Words: Adoniram Judson, 1847?
Music: DUKE STREET, John Hatton, 1793

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) was born in Massachusetts, and studied at both Brown University and the Andover Theological Seminary. He married shortly after his graduation, and the newlyweds set out to be missionaries in India. The international situation being what it was in 1815, the American couple was turned away by the British East India Company, and settled instead in Burma. (Ironically, when the British captured Rangoon in the 1820s, Judson placed in prison by Burman authorities who suspected him of being a British agent!) Judson spent the majority of his career in that country, and did the Burmans the considerable service of translating the Bible into their language. He and his family are prominent figures in the 19th-century missionary movement, and in the history of Baptists in America.

Besides a versification of the Lord's Prayer, Judson left only one hymn, but his careful thought on the topic--baptism and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit--has made it a classic. Originally in seven stanzas, it has actually been broken up by editors into two different hymns: "Our Savior bowed beneath the wave," published in 1829 and comprising the first three stanzas, and this hymn (originally titled "Come, Holy Spirit, Dove divine"), taken from stanzas 7, 5, and 6 of the original.(Julian, 609) In a rare slip, Julian mistakenly identifies this hymn with the "Come, Holy Spirit" in Winchell's Collection of 1832; that hymn is not Judson's, however, but an entirely different work attributed to Franklin Barby. I have not discovered the earliest appearance of Judson's hymn, but it is included in the 1847 edition of The Psalmist, a landmark hymnal among Baptists in North America.

Here is one of the first hymns in Praise for the Lord to deal very directly with the work of the Holy Spirit, and like Cicero, "I begin to speak with great fear." In my paper, "A place in the soul, all made of tunes," I presented the argument that Churches of Christ historically have avoided hymns about the Holy Spirit because of long-standing disagreements over the exact means of His work today in the Christian's life. For those unfamiliar with the debate, we do believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in all those who have become Christians (Romans 8:9-14; 1 Corinthians 3:16); some, however, believe this indwelling is accomplished strictly through our knowledge of the Word, and others believe it is a literal, personal indwelling. I am of the latter view because I believe it is the simplest, most obvious interpretation of the relevant passages; I also suggest that when either side is pressed to show the difference it quickly becomes a question of semantics.

But if there are differences on this point, we are united (at least among the traditional mainstream congregations) in the belief that the era of pentecostal miracles, and of fresh revelations from the Holy Spirit, ended according to God's will with the passing of the generation of the original apostles. We are also united in the belief that, though the Spirit works mightily through His Word, no one is caused to believe or not to believe against that person's will, or brought to belief in some miraculous manner apart from the word. (For those who want to understand the Scriptural background of these positions, Wayne Jackson's article "False ideas about the Holy Spirit" briefly addresses these areas.)

We are also united in the belief that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the act of baptism: "For in one Spirit we are all baptized into one body."(1 Corinthians 12:13) We believe this is exactly what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."(John 3:5) Galatians 4:29 likewise contrasts "born of the flesh" and "born of the Spirit." Paul summarizes the idea in his letter to Titus as well:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.(Titus 3:4-6)
We believe that this in fact is "the gift of the Holy Spirit" that accompanies the believer's baptism in Acts 2:38. So why not sing about it? I suggest that the following hymn, though it has not been widely used among the Churches of Christ (at least in the U.S.), is perfectly in agreement with Scripture and is a beautiful illustration of the Spirit's work in baptism.

Stanza 1:
Come, Holy Spirit, Guest divine
On these baptismal waters shine,
And teach our hearts, in highest strain,
To praise the Lamb for sinners slain.

The original first line says "Dove divine," calling up the well-known image from Jesus' baptism. I am not sure why it was changed--perhaps it was just a little too much consonance--but I think it is a change for the better. The baptism of Jesus was a wonderful and singular event, never to be equated with the baptism that is the new birth of a lost sinner. "Guest" also reminds us of the promise of the Spirit's indwelling in our hearts and lives. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Yet a little earlier in the same letter, we read that the Spirit also dwells in us collectively as the body of Christ: "Do you [plural] not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"(3:16)

We all know what it is like to have house guests. No matter how glad we are to see them, there is a little relief when they are finally gone and we can get our households back to normal, which for many of us means not quite up to the standards of efficiency and neatness that we had been maintaining in the presence of company. Sometimes Christians want to treat their Lord the same way--but He is not just a temporary boarder in our lives, He is the new landlord. The indwelling Spirit is with us at all times, "so glorify God in your body."

But if that is the case, why would we be calling for the Spirit's presence, as in the first line of this hymn? Of course He is present everywhere; but in the same way that we speak of "drawing near to the throne of grace"(Hebrews 4:16) in prayer, we also beseech the Spirit's presence at the moment a person is accepting baptism. Really we are just acknowledging that presence; it is a reminder for us, not for Him! As mentioned previously, the Holy Spirit is present and active in the act of baptism; it is necessary to be born again of "water and the Spirit"(John 3:5) in a "washing of regeneration"(Titus 3:5) to make a "new creature"(2 Corinthians 5:17). Water, of course, is common; but the spiritual birth of a new Christian is not. We do well to take note of the profound wonder of what is taking place.

The focus of praise, however, turns to Jesus, because it is His sacrifice that makes the Spirit's work possible. The image of "a Lamb, as it had been slain" is from the Revelation, beginning in chapter 5, verse 6. The adoration of His person and thanksgiving for His work is described in the following verses:
And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.(Revelation 5:9-14)
Revelation 13:8 continues this figure, calling Christ the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." We read more along these lines in 1 Peter 1:18-20,
Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a Lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you . . .
What could be more humbling, inspiring both awe and joy, than to know that it was in the mind of God, from before all time, to sacrifice His sinless Son for you and me?

Stanza 2:
We love Thy name, we love Thy laws,
And joyfully embrace Thy cause;
We love Thy cross, the shame, the pain,
O Lamb of God, for sinners slain.

The second stanza is addressed to Jesus, whose invitation to salvation is being accepted through baptism. We love His name, therefore we confess it before others as part of obeying His gospel,(Romans 10:9-10) and as a new creation we proudly wear His name and are called "Christians."(Acts 11:26) As Judson notes, when we take His name, we are accepting His sovereignty, and are under His laws. There is a "law of Christ,"(Galatians 6:2) and He himself said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love."(John 15:10) "His commandments are not burdensome,"(1 John 5:3) and are even called a "law of liberty,"(James 1:25) but they must be respected.

We are also accepting His challenge, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."(Mark 8:34) To those who invented it, the cross was an emblem of disgrace and terror, but Christians gladly embrace the Man who died upon it and accept the consequences--we will get the same rejection by the world. "You will be hated by all for My name's sake" is His promise; and though we are commanded to "live peaceably with all," at least "so far as it depends on you,"(Romans 12:18) following the path of Jesus will bring conflict enough. Hebrews 12:4 reminded many 1st-century Christians that, "You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Would the writer say of us, "You have not yet resisted unto inconvenience?" God help us to remember that we are citizens of a kingdom "not of this world,"(John 18:36) and are accountable to better things.

Stanza 3:
We sink beneath Thy mystic flood;
O bathe us in Thy cleansing blood!
We die to sin, and see a grave,
With Thee beneath the yielding wave.

I regret Judson's choice of words (lovely though it is) in "mystic flood." With the many conflicting views of baptism and salvation held by religious people in our day, I do not want to suggest through this song that I hold the view that there is something mysterious or magical in the water itself. But if we remember that "mystery" means "something concealed," Judson is on the right track. What we see is just water, but what the believer brings into it (a repentant, obedient faith) and what the Lord promises in it (His saving blood) are unseen. Jesus "washed us from our sins in his own blood."(Revelation 1:5) When and how do we come into contact with His saving blood? There is a puzzling passage in 1 John 5, verses 6-8, that addresses the question--puzzling unless one keeps it in context of the salvation of a believer, as mentioned in verse 5:
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.(1 John 5:6-8)
The new birth through the water and the Spirit (John 3), and the coming of Jesus into the heart of a penitent, obedient believer, involve contact with His blood. The water, present physically and seen, corresponds to the blood, present symbolically and unseen.

In addition to a symbolic washing, baptism is also a symbolic burial. This stanza leans heavily on Romans chapter 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death . . . (Romans 6:1-4a)
This was the only way to kill the power of sin; the "new creation" could not come until the old one was put to death.
We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.(Romans 6:6-7)
In view of these two important aspects of baptism, it is refreshing how clear Judson is in support of immersion as the only logical (and Scriptural!) mode for such an action. Twice in one stanza he emphasizes that this is "beneath" the "flood" and the "wave." The meaning of "baptism" in the original language is obvious enough; and as a symbol, nothing less than immersion could represent the cleansing of bathing or the finality of burial.

Stanza 4:
And as we rise, with Thee to live,
O let the Holy Spirit give
The sealing unction from above,
The breath of life, the fire of love.

Just as we die to sin, being buried beneath the waters of baptism, so our coming up out of the water carries extraordinary significance: "in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."(Romans 6:4b) The remainder of Romans 6 fills out Paul's application of this doctrine to everyday life: "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. . . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."(Romans 6:8,11)

The "sealing unction," as Judson puts it, is clearly spoken of in Scripture; and we do not have to understand everything about it to know that it is so. "But you have an anointing [KJV: 'unction'] from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth."(1 John 2:20, ESV) This idea is spelled out more plainly in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, "And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." Paul says something very similar to the Ephesians: "In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory."(Ephesians 1:13-14)

It was our pleasure this past Sunday morning to witness a woman's decision to come out of the world and into Christ. She professed her faith in Christ as the Son of God; she was lowered into the waters of baptism, letting the power of Christ's sinless death put to death the sins of her former life; she was raised in the power of His resurrection as a new person, reborn through water and the Spirit, with the Spirit's indwelling as guarantee of the "new management" under which she now lives. What a wonderful transformation!

About the music:

The tune DUKE STREET is discussed in connection with "Awake, my tongue, thy tribute bring." Any Common Meter tune, of course, could be used; this could be easily sung with the OLD 100TH ("Doxology") tune.


Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology. New York: Scribner, 1892.

Winchell, James M., editor. An Arrangement of the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Dr. Watts. Boston: James Loring, 1832.

Stow, Baron, and F. S. Smith, editors. The Psalmist: A New Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Baptist Churches Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1847.

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