cheque_tract.jpg This week in Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, I’m entering another one of those love-hate hymns. As background, Elvina M. Hall was born: June 4, 1822 in Al­ex­an­dria, Vir­gin­ia and died Ju­ly 18, 1889 in Ocean Grove, New Jer­sey. The daughter of Cap­tain Da­vid Rey­nolds, she mar­ried Ri­chard Hall of West­more­land Coun­ty, Vir­gin­ia. Following Hall’s death, she was remarried to Thom­as Mey­ers, a Meth­od­ist min­is­ter in Bal­ti­more, Ma­ry­land. Settling there, she at­tend­ed the Mon­u­ment Street Meth­od­ist Church in Bal­ti­more for forty years. In 1865, she wrote the words to “Jesus Paid it All.” Meanwhile, John T. Grape was initially told by friends that a piece of music he had written was unremarkable, but his wife continued in her opinion that it would be a lasting score. Grape’s Pastor, Rev. George W. Schrek was already aware of the words to this hymn when he heard Grape’s score, and felt they would be best matched together. The song was thus published in 1868.

Why “love-hate?” I recall the hymn from my youth, though primarily only the chorus. Some of the verses are familiar of course, the last perhaps most of all. As I review the lyrics I find a mix of thoughts which might inspire steeped in the ransom view of atonement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… maybe…

But overall the feeling the hymn leaves me with is the negative product of the ransom theory — that I’m steeped in debt and by virtue of Jesus’ stepping in to cover it, I no longer owe the same unpayable party, but instead I now owe Jesus. This interpretation is admittedly a warped form of ransom theory, but it seems all too common to me, from hymns and trite advice to corny formulaic tracts that strive but fail to reach the level of “kitsch.” The end result of falling under this misunderstanding is that service to Christ under this kind of burden is relegated to obligation and robbed of its joy.

Jesus Paid it All

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.


And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.


Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.


When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.


And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.


Of course, I doubt that Ms. Hall had the negative understanding in mind as she composed the lyrics, but shifted into today’s post-evangelical climate, these are the thoughts that the hymn strikes in me. Anyone else have similar — or contradictory — thoughts on the matter? Memories of this hymn, fond or otherwise?

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