“How Precious Does That Grace Appear!”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations

The second verse of John Newton’s justly renowned “Amazing Grace” reads,

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

That certainly was true in my experience, and I suspect in the experience of most Christians.  When I was baptized, it was a big deal!  However, I have found that since that day 30 years ago, grace has grown more, not less, precious.

This is not because year by year, I have grown more like John Newton the unbelieving slave trader.  Indeed, I think the opposite has occurred.  Though the heart is deceptively deceitful, my self-impression is that I sin less than I did 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.  I am wiser, less contentious, less easily led astray.  For this, I can take no credit.  Instead, the glory goes to the Lord, who has begun a good work in every Christian and labors to perfect it.

However, with increased wisdom comes increased self-awareness and increased understanding of the Scriptures.  In quantitative terms, I may sin less, but I am more conscious of sin and more sorrowful over it.  Every year, I behold the awesome perfection of the Son of Man with greater clarity, and I am forced to acknowledge how short I fall of His image.  The more I grow, the more discontented I become with where I am, and the more I see how far I have yet to grow.

Along with this, though, I have grown in my appreciation for God’s grace, the only thing that can perfect me.  The unbeliever concludes that goodness is not difficult, the new Christian thinks they can get most of it done without help, but the one who has walked with Christ for decades learns to despair of their own righteousness.

All that remains is grace—grace, purchased at such hideous cost by the dying anguish of the Lamb of God.  Grace, offered in prodigal splendor by a God who must be great to show such mercy.  Grace, which transforms and enlightens the hearts of those who taste it.  Grace, which will be glorified eternally by the presence in God’s presence of all who have been redeemed by it.

What is like the grace of God?  What is as beautiful to the eyes of the believer?  What else can offer such comfort and peace and joy?  Without it, the struggles of life are hopeless. With it, victory is assured.

Grace was precious in the hour I first believed, but it is far more precious now, and with each passing day, it grows more precious still.  Every day, I see God’s goodness in His creation, and I am thankful.  Most of all, though, I am thankful for His grace.