One day in 1895 while William Newell was on his way to teach a class, he was suddenly overcome by the magnitude of what Christ had done for him at Calvary. He quickly entered an empty classroom and penned down a few verses on the only available paper he had, an old envelope. As he left the room he bumped into Dr. Daniel Towner, the director of music at the school, and showed him the verses. Within an hour the music was composed and the hymn “At Calvary” was born. Here are two verses from that hymn.
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.
Newell had seen the “mighty gulf” of the parable, and it was spanned at Calvary! It was as though Jesus had laid Himself down across the yawning chasm to allow those in Hades to walk across when the time was right. Yes, it was “Salvation’s plan!” Yes, it was God’s gift to man! Those finding themselves tormented by their self-indulgent lives and truly repenting would suddenly become aware of the way across, and as with the prodigal son, see the Father’s arms open to receive them on the other side, no longer lost but now restored. As John Newton penned –
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Our Lord’s words to the “goats” may seem to be drastic, terrible, and final. “Eternal fire.” The Western mind latches onto those words and teaches “everlasting hell-fire”, but the Middle Eastern mind sees a way through. God, who everlastingly seeks the lost will always be ready to pluck a “goat” from its self-imposed torture once true repentance is seen. Let no one say a time will come when the eternal heart shuts its doors to the cries of repentant sinners.
Those in “outer darkness”, or in “eternal fire”, are said to be “weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth”. They are coming to terms with the big mistakes of their lives, and eventually see the need to make a U turn, to repent. It is then that the “everlasting door” slammed in their faces suddenly, and incredibly, opens to reveal a way out, by God’s unlimited grace.
Once again we say, with Kenneth Bailey, the word ‘no’ contains no ring of finality, but is just a stage in negotiation. All the severe predictions in the parables were meant to be incentives to man to repent.
I hope you have all enjoyed and benefited from these five brief messages.
William R. Newell,1868-1956 is remembered fondly as a pastor, evangelist, Bible teacher, author, conference speaker and one-time assistant superintendent of Moody Bible Institute. The hymn is found in the CSSM chorus book No.135.
Dr. Daniel B. Towner,1850 – 1919 was a composer who used his abilities to develop the music to several Christian hymns which are still popular today, such as “Trust and Obey”. He was associated with the work of Mr. Moody, and had a baritone voice of wonderful power and compass.