“Once It Was the Blessing; Now It Is the Lord”—A Classic Hymn

Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

In our post on the benefits of singing to the Lord in our daily life, we pointed out that God’s people throughout the ages have praised, worshipped, and expressed their deepest sentiments to God in songs and hymns. As a result we believers today have a rich heritage of classic hymns to encourage and inspire us in our Christian life.

In this post we’d like to share with you a hymn by A. B. Simpson about his experience of Jesus meeting his every need. The title of this post is the first line of Simpson’s hymn. 

Discovering the precious secret of “Christ in you”

Albert Benjamin Simpson was a well-known nineteenth-century Christian preacher and author. Busy as a speaker, writer, and founder of a large missionary organization, he eventually found himself worn out in body and mind.

In such a state, he discovered what Paul wrote of in Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you.” Simpson realized Christ lived in him and was everything he needed. Writing about his discovery, he said:

“If this precious little secret of ‘Christ in you,’ will help you, you may have it. May you make better use of it than I! I feel I have only begun to learn how well it works. Take it and go on working it out, through time and eternity—Christ for all, grace for grace, from strength to strength, from glory to glory, from this time forth and even forevermore.”

The author of over 120 hymns, Simpson wrote one he titled “Himself,” that testified of His joyful experience of Christ being his all. You can read the hymn and listen to the melody on Hymnal.net. The first stanza gives us a taste of his experience of Christ:

Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word.
Once the gift I wanted,
Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.

The first line of stanza 1 is striking—it contrasts blessing and the Lord. We might think, “What’s wrong with blessing?” It all depends on our understanding of how God blesses us.

In Galatians 3:14 Paul wrote: “In order that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Note 2 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version makes clear what God’s greatest blessing is to us:

“In the gospel we have received not only the blessing of forgiveness, washing, and cleansing; even more, we have received the greatest blessing, which is the Triune God—the Father, Son, and Spirit—as the processed, all-inclusive life-giving Spirit dwelling in us in a most subjective way for our enjoyment. Oh, what a blessing that we can enjoy such an all-inclusive One as our daily portion!”

We’ve been blessed with Christ as the life-giving Spirit living in us, in our spirit! This wonderful Christ is the reality of everything we need. In A. B. Simpson’s words, “Now it is the Lord,” because Christ is our everything!

Enjoying this hymn

An excellent way to enjoy a classic hymn like this is to use it in our personal time with the Lord. We might sing the hymn and then speak it to the Lord as a prayer to Him. Perhaps a particular phrase of the hymn really touches our heart, and we’re led to pray along those lines, “Lord, I no longer want to seek something apart from You. I turn from merely seeking what You can give me to seeking You alone. Draw me to Yourself from other things to simply enjoy You as the one who meets my need.”

After reading the second line, the Lord may lead us to pray, “Lord Jesus, I don’t want to live my Christian life according to my unreliable feelings. Strengthen me to stand on the solid ground of Your Word.”

As we read, sing, and even pray with precious hymns like this one by A. B. Simpson, our fellowship with the Lord is enriched. We can learn from the pattern of ones who have gone before us as we seek to know and experience the Lord. Thank the Lord for such a heritage of hymns!

To read more about the blessing of the life-giving Spirit in our spirit for our enjoyment, check out our post “What Does It Mean to Be Blessed by God?”

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