Monuments in Heaven

This story reminds me of a thought that occurred while singing a hymn on Sunday: will #woke Christians let David’s throne stand in the new heavens and new earth? (The story is about the toppling of a Confederate monument, Silent Sam, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.)

“Jerusalem the Golden”‘s third stanza in the old Trinity Hymnal goes like this:

There is the throne of David;
And there, from care released,
The song of them that triumph,
The shout of them that feast;
And they who with their Leader
Have conquered in the fight,
For ever and for ever
Are clad in robes of white.

So we may have a throne that commemorates an adulterer, a man who plotted the death of his lover’s husband, and a king who could not manage his own household. Not to mention that he purged the holy land of pagan dwellers. Yes, the Lord commanded it but in these times of social righteousness, such aggression is not just macro but cosmic.

Even so, Bernard of Cluny and John Mason Neale seemed to think Christians could draw comfort and inspiration from the thought of a throne in the new Jerusalem that commemorated the very flawed King David. Which makes you wonder if the pursuit of righteousness here (by some Christians) is going to be sufficient preparation for the righteousness to come.

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Singing Lutheran Theology from a Presbyterian Hymnal

I myself have never been impressed by the adage that ordinary believers learn more theology from hymns than from sermons or teaching. But recent frequent singing of “The Law of God Is Good and Wise” (1863) has led me to hope that the adage is true. Here is the text:

The law of God is good and wise,
And sets His will before our eyes,
Shows us the way of righteousness,
And dooms to death when we transgress.

Its light of holiness imparts
The knowledge of our sinful hearts,
That we may see our lost estate
And seek deliverance ere too late.

To those who help in Christ have found
And would in works of love abound
It shows what deeds are His delight
And should be done as good and right.

When men the offered help disdain
And willfully in sin remain,
Its terror in their ear resounds
And keeps their wickedness in bounds.

The law is good, but since the fall
Its holiness condemns us all;
It dooms us for our sin to die
And has no power to justify.

To Jesus we for refuge flee,
Who from the curse has set us free,
And humbly worship at His throne,
Saved by His grace through faith alone.

The OPC’s Trinity Hymnal (no. 449) sets this text to the tune of Erhaul Uns Herr. The name of that tune gives away the hymn’s author’s background. Matthias Loy (1828-1915), a German-American Lutheran pastor, born in the vicinity of Harrisburg, Pa., ministered in Delaware, Ohio for much of his career. Although a minister of the Joint Synod of Ohio, over which he presided for two long stints, Loy was indebted to the confessional Lutheran theology of the Missouri Synod.

The inclusion of this hymn in the OPC’s hymnal may not only indicate that Lutherans and Reformed Protestants are not as far apart on matters of law and gospel as some argue these days. The hymn itself is also an indication that Lutherans are not nearly as opposed to the law as their (false) antinomian reputation suggests.