“At Calvary”

  Bill Dagle tells this story behind the song, “At Calvary.”

  D.L. Moody chose his friend and co-worker, Dr. R.A. Torrey to be the first president of Moody Bible Institute.  In 1905, Dr. Torrey shared a story about a rebellious teenager who eventually became the inspiration for the writing of that grand old hymn, “At Calvary.”  The story goes like this:

  When I was president of the Moody Bible Institute, I received a letter from a very concerned pastor who told me of a son who was causing himself and his family a great deal of trouble.  His life was really mixed up.  And the father felt that attendance at Moody would help. I advised the father that even though I sympathized with him, for I was a father; yet, because I was running a Bible school and not a reform school, I had to deny his request.  After many letters of pleading his cause, I finally gave in with the stipulation that the rebellious teen must see me each day and make every effort to abide by the rules and requirements of the Institute.

  Torrey went on to say that the boy faithfully visited his office each day; and with wisdom from God’s word, he answered the questions that had been keeping the boy from God.  Finally, after many months of counseling, the prayers of the boy’s father were answered when young William R. Newell received Christ as his personal Savior.

  Thirty years later, as a teacher at Moody, Mr. Newell was recounting those turbulent years as a rebellious teen; and as he was rejoicing in his salvation, the words of a poem flooded his mind. His mind was filled with a word picture of what had happened in his life and also in the lives of all those who surrender to Christ.  The new man in Christ could now write:

“Years I spent in vanity and pride
Caring not my Lord was crucified
Knowing not it was for me He died
At Calvary
O the Love that drew salvation’s plan
O the grace that brought it down to man
O the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary.”

  Look at the cross and see Jesus.  There are many beautiful pictures of Jesus, most showing Him as a strong, tanned person, with strength of character ebbing from His countenance.  Jesus is all of that.  But, the picture the world must see of Jesus to be saved is this:  Jesus suffering, dying, finishing all that is necessary for the salvation of mankind.  SEE HIM, with His back ripped open by the scourging tool. His clothes matted to His flesh by the blood.  His head bleeding from a crown of thorns which dug into His brow, spit running down over His face where they had spit upon Him,  His cheek red and swollen from where they had slapped Him, His clothes torn and soiled from His abuse.  SEE CHRIST giving Himself for all mankind.
SEE HIM, there upon the cross, then ask yourself, “Is it nothing to me, all we who pass by?”

  You know the story of God’s love revealed in the Christ of the cross.  Through Jesus, God offers His love to each of us.  How can we refuse such love?  Love Him who loved you so.  

  At Calvary, God revealed Himself and made possible our redemption and reconciliation to Him.

3 Responses to ““At Calvary””

  1. Thank you Max for this one !
    THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE HYMNS ! In our church service our Minister of Music always has some history, who wrote the hymn ,and also Bible verses too . They always relate to to sermon. Some times I think people just sing the words without even thinking of the meaning .This song surely reminds me of what Jesus did for me, and you too.
    Joann

  2. It is good to know the history of how a hymn comes to be written,
    It gives added meaning.
    Today our ministers started a series of sermons on the authors of hymns. The youth minister spole today on “Amazing Grace”.
    He tied it in with the story of the prodigal son.It was well done.
    Glad that you and Joann get to travel. Our family spent a week together in the Wisconsin Dells. There were 10 of us and four generations. It was a great time. This coming weekend my brother and wife from Roanoke, VA and my sister with her son from near Nashville, TN are coming for our third sibling gathering.

  3. Max,

    Thanks again for an inspiring devotional. I have used many of the stories about various Hymns and how they were inspired to be written …..

    With your permission I would like to use this one in a future devotional or sermon for our Lighthouse congregation.

    Keep Preaching The Word, Keep sharing the Truth,
    Keep reaching the Lost ….. Keep being a solider of the Cross !!!

    Your fellow worker for the Cause Of Christ

    Bobby Awtrey

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