How Awful is The Place

July 31, 2008

Show me where Christ is, and I will show you an awful place.  

Funny how a word can get turned on its head over time.  In the 21st century, to call a place awful isn’t a compliment.  Not so in the 18th century, in which awful was a word to express deep reverence — as in full of awe.  In that sense, the place where Christ dwells is the most awful of all.

Here’s a hymn that brought me to tears at the conference I attended earlier this year.  This is the actual recording of it being sung before one of the sessions.  (Can you pick out my voice?)  Isaac Watts wrote the words in 1707.  Like Watts, I marvel that a sinner like me has been given a place at the Lord’s table.  

How Sweet and Awful is the Place

Reading the words to this moving song might be helpful before listening to it.  Here they are:

1. How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

2. While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

3. “Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

4. ‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

5. Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

6. We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

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