Featured, Hymns, Ministry, Seminary, Theology

Hymns We Should Sing More: How Sweet and Awful is the Place

February 10, 2016

I recently began a blog series entitled Hymns We Should Sing More, which seeks to edify the church with rich, biblical hymns. This is the fifth installment in this series. You can read the previous installments here.

All around the world, Christians gather for corporate worship and sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs as an act of worship to God. Specifically these hymns are full of rich biblical truths about God, mankind, salvation, the coming Kingdom and many other theological topics. Unfortunately, many Christians are unfamiliar with a vast number of theologically rich hymns.

When hymns are sung in a contemporary worship service, there is often a lack of repertoire of hymnology. This series, Hymns We Should Sing More, is a means of getting more Christians aware of the vast number of theologically rich hymns that we rarely, if ever, sing.

The hymn How Sweet and Awful is the Place was written by Isaac Watts in 1707. This title may seem odd to many of you, therefore you must understand that the word awful conveyed the sense of “awe-inducing,” which a modern equivalent would be awesome. Therefore, many hymnals translate the title How Sweet and Awesome is the Place to avoid the confusion all together.

This hymn beautifully weaves sound theology and heart-felt affections throughout the lyrics. Watts poses an excellent question that every Christian should ask, “Why was I made to hear Thy voice, when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?” Watts grounds his assurance not in man’s response but in God’s sovereign grace that drew him in. Sadly, I have yet to find a contemporary rendition of this hymn outside of Together for the Gospel’s conference rendition, which you can listen to here.

How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

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