Last week, for some reason, a phrase from the song “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” kept running through my head. It was from the last verse, “…Yet I to the end shall endure…” So what hymn should we sing yesterday in church but that one, and I noticed the context of that phrase in the song as a whole, i.e. “mercy”. I realized that in the Assembly I would be thanking God for his mercy alone in the first verse, and yet by the end of the last verse my feelings of “enduring to the end” were in terms of my own zeal of commitment to “overcome”, not God’s mercy to keep me secure. Good grief, what cognitive dissonance!
I think I accomplished this without discomfort because in the Assembly I experienced the whole song with my emotions, not with a focus on cognitive understanding, so it was easy to shift from the emotion of gratitude for God’s mercy at the beginning to heartfelt commitment at the end. Unfortunately, ending up with that emotion of zeal made me overlook the meaning of the last phrase of the hymn, “…More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in heav’n.”
Looking at the lyrics as a whole, A. M. Toplady entire theme is obviously the security and safety of the believer because of what Jesus has accomplished for us. In the Assembly, that truth did not escape me entirely–my soul experienced it for a few moments and basked in that mercy, right up to the last phrases of the song. I was energized by grace in such a real way that the benefit was not evaporated at the end, just mistakenly directed toward making a greater effort next week to “overcome” and do everything right. I think by such means as these our souls were “kept alive in famine”, even though we missed the full benefit we could have had if we had grasped the truth with our minds as well as our emotions.