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Maxie Dunnam ~ Be of Sin the Double Cure

Familiarity sometimes breeds dullness. It’s true in the whole of life; it is especially true in the way we hear things and reflect on what we hear. The hymns we sing are a great example of this. If we have sung them often, we are so familiar with the tunes that we sing the words by rote. Not only do we not reflect on the meaning of the words, the words don’t even register in our minds.

An example is one of our most familiar hymns, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me. In the very first stanza of the hymn, one of the great themes of the Christian faith is stated in such a unique way that it should lodge firmly in our minds.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

The image is a powerful one: Rock of Ages. This was a favorite metaphor for the Psalmists.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
      my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
     He is my shield and the horn of mu salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
     And I am saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:2-3 NIV)

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call on you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been a refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe. (Psalm 61:1-3 NIV)

In the little country Baptist Church where I was converted, we sang a gospel song based on this Psalm/Prayer. Ray Steven made it popular later on.

Why don’t you lead me to the rock that is higher than I?
Oh lead me to the rock, yes lead me to the rock.
Why don’t you lead me to the rock that is higher than I?
Thou hast been a shelter for me.

Our minds are swirling around the notion of God as our rock, and finding the shelter of a mighty rock as we come to the petition, “be of sin the double cure.” If we stop to think about it, we may be so puzzled by the language that we don’t stay with it long enough to ponder what the poet is talking about. Yet, it is a clear expression of what salvation is all about.

Too many think of salvation in a limited way: the forgiveness of sin and nullifying guilt. It is far more than that, and this verse of the hymn expresses it so solidly: “Be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure.”

Salvation is pardon, yes; but it is also power … power over sin. We are saved from the guilt of sin by the forgiveness of Christ, but we are also saved from the ongoing power of continuing sin. Salvation is a double cure. Another hymn writer expressed it this way,

My sin—not in part but in whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it not more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!    (H.G. Spafford, It Is Well With My Soul)

Not in part but in whole … nothing partial; “saved to the uttermost” as Wesley would say. Wesley believed that the Bible clearly taught that God had wedded holy living and salvation by faith alone into one inseparable whole. The dual emphasis on what God does “for us” through Christ, and what Christ does “in us” through the Holy Spirit is one of Wesley’s greatest contribution to the Christian Church.

Even before God revealed himself so clearly in Jesus Christ, the Psalmist knew there had to be a “double cure.”

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. (Psalm 103:2-5 NIV)

So the hymn writer is on target when he talks about the Rock of Ages providing a double cure. We can “hide” ourselves in him because he forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases; he saves from wrath and makes us pure. This is as it should be, and as it must be. Charles H. Spurgeon made the case in this fashion,

“To be washed, and yet to lie in the mire; to be pronounced clean, and yet to have the leprosy white on one’s brow, would be the veriest mockery of mercy. What is it to bring the man out of his sepulcher if you leave him dead? Why lead him into the light if he is still blind?” (All of Grace, p. 95)

So we pray, “Be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure”




NOTE: We Methodist/Wesleyans like to say, “We sing our faith.” And we do. Ellsworth Kalas is a person who has reflected a great deal on the richness of our Wesleyan Accent in song. This week, we will begin a regular posting of Kalas’ reflections on a Wesleyan hymn. Don’t miss it.