Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder

Praise for Redeeming Love
John Newton, 1774
Addressed to one another
Let us love and sing and wonder,
   let us praise the Savior’s name!Heb. 13:15
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,Heb. 12:18–24
   he has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame:
he has washed us with his blood,Ex. 24:8; 1 Cor. 6:11
he has brought us nigh to God.
Let us love the Lord who bought us,1 Cor. 6:20
   pitied us when enemies,Rom. 5:10
called us by his grace, and taught us,Gal. 1:6, 15; Eph. 4:21
   gave us ears and gave us eyes:Ps. 40:6
he has washed us with his blood,
he presents our souls to God.Col. 1:22
Let us sing, though fierce temptationPs. 57:6–7
   threaten hard to bear us down!Heb. 12:1
For the Lord, our strong salvation,Ex. 15:2
   holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown:Rev. 2:10
he who washed us with his blood
soon will bring us home to God.2 Cor. 5:8
Let us wonder; grace and justice
   join and point to mercy’s store;Ps. 85:10
when through grace in Christ our trust is,
   justice smiles and asks no more:Rom. 3:24; 8:4
he who washed us with his blood
has secured our way to God.Eph. 2:18; Heb. 10:20
Let us praise, and join the chorus
   of the saints enthroned on high;Rev. 4:4
here they trusted him before us,
   now their praises fill the sky:
“You have washed us with your blood;
you are worthy, Lamb of God!”Rev. 5:9

Here is a textbook example of the power of trochaic meter to carry exhortation. The stress falls on the first syllable of each two-syllable metrical unit. This contrasts with iambic meter—the norm for English-language poetry—in which the stress comes on the second syllable. A trochaic metrical unit is said to fall, an iambic to rise. Reading aloud, compare:

Let us | love and | sing and | wonder,
   let us | praise the | Savior’s | name!


Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
   to his feet your tribute bring;


Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
   weak and wounded, sick and sore;


We give | thee but | thine own,
   whate’er | the gift | may be:
all that | we have | is thine | alone,
   a trust, | O Lord, | from thee.

and with

God moves in a mysterious way
   his wonders to perform;

and with

O little town of Bethlehem,
   how still we see thee lie.

In sound and sense the first three examples are forceful, immediate, and maybe even a little abrupt. The last three are more measured, generally moving toward a goal. One third of the hymns studied on this website are trochaic, and a large percentage of these are either exhortative (Hark! the Voice of Jesus Crying) or exuberant (Christ the Lord Is Risen Today). One half of all the hymns are iambic, with a large percentage being expository. (The remaining one sixth are either trisyllabic—dactylic or anapestic—or a mixture of meters.)

The hymn before us is all exhortation. The first sentence outlines the scheme of the entire poem. We will urge one another to love in stanza 2, to sing in stanza 3, to wonder in stanza 4, and finally to praise in stanza 5. In each case, the object of the urged activity is the Savior’s name.

In stanza 2 “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) in our effectual calling, regeneration, and justification. Stanza 3 then considers the Christian’s current situation. Saints sing in the midst of sanctifying circumstances (like Paul and Silas, or like us as we sing these very words); certainly, looking to their glorification—the conqueror’s crown—they have much to sing about. The first two stanzas’ quasi-refrain that the Savior has washed us with his blood is now turned into a relative clause, subordinate to a proclamation about the near future: he who washed us with his blood soon will bring us home to God.

Having surveyed the way of salvation in stanzas 2–3, we pause to wonder in stanza 4 at God’s righteousness as demonstrated in the gospel. One commonly speaks of mercy as a kind of grace extended in legal judgment, as clemency overruling justice. We set justice in opposition to grace. But here justice and grace, personified, are said to join. They unite, as if in marriage or friendship. “When through grace in Christ our trust is, justice smiles and asks no more.” These lines, some of the most eloquent in all the hymnbook, well communicate astonishment at, and admiration for, the gospel’s revelation of a God who is simultaneously just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

All that remains is for us to heed our own exhortation by turning love, song, and wonder to praise, adding our voices to the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:23), which is what the quotation from Revelation 5 at the end allows us to do.

William Wymond has likened the first, descending phrase of ALL SAINTS OLD to a joyful peal of bells, summoning us to worship. The tune’s bar form emphasizes the motivating power of the quasi-refrain. The repeated Cs on “he has washed,” a higher pitch than any yet sung, are the very epitome of trochaic force.