The prolific Salvationist poet Will J. Brand composed more than 350 songs and 150 sonnets, 15 of which have become well known through the Army songbook. One of his poignant songs of consecration (SASB 534), with music by Colonel Bramwell Coles, was originally titled Renewal. As covenanted people, we embrace and affirm Will Brand’s personal spiritual journey. An intentional, slow reading of the first verse brings rich blessing:
When from sin’s dark hold thy love had won me,
And its wounds thy tender hands had healed,
As thy blest commands were laid upon me,
Growing light my growing need revealed.
Thus I sought the path of consecration
When to thee, dear Lord, my vows were given;
And the joy which came with full salvation
Winged my feet and filled my heart with Heaven.
“The joy which came with full salvation”Do you remember when you were saved—the day when you became “a new creation,” with the old having gone and the new having come (see 2 Corinthians 5:17)? All believers enthusiastically answer this question with a resounding “Yes!” It is a question that is easy to answer but difficult to explain. Forgiven … accepted into God’s family … free! While the experience is hard to explain, it is impossible to restrain. As the Apostle Paul urges, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Through the anesthesia of neglect, the initial joy will diminish. Indeed, the joy can be lost. Questions come: “Do I feel the excitement today? Am I willing to do anything for Christ? Does my heart still overflow with joy?” With David we plead, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).
“In my heart of hearts have I denied thee?”
The final couplets of the second verse pose the fundamental, heart-searching questions:
Have I ceased from walking close beside thee?
Have I grieved thee with an
In my heart of hearts have
I denied thee?
Speak, dear Lord, O speak
and tell me now.
The questions tug at the heart. “Could I, once devoted to Christ, actually deny him and, in so doing, breach my sacred covenant with God? Could I somehow sever my agreement with the Almighty?”
“With my Lord unbroken faith to keep”
Victory is found in the earnest prayer of the final verse:
By the love that never ceased to hold me
In a bond nor life nor death shall break,
As thy presence and thy power enfold me,
I would plead fresh covenant to make.
From before thy face, each vow renewing,
Strong in heart, with purpose pure and deep,
I will go henceforth thy will pursuing,
With my Lord unbroken faith to keep.
The key to upholding our sacred covenant is staying close to God, keeping faith with him. He always gives us the choice, for he will never force us into this relationship with him.
The key to upholding our sacred covenant is staying close to God, keeping faith with him
Yet he promises to always help us. James reminds us to “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). In like manner, the writer of Hebrews reiterates this eternal promise: “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
How about you? Have you lost fellowship with Christ? Do you need to renew your covenant with God?
Whether you are a cadet signing your covenant prior to your ordination and commissioning, or an officer, soldier or friend of The Salvation Army, I pray that you will take time to make or renew your covenant with your Creator, who loves you with an everlasting love. As you do so, you will experience God’s richest blessing. May you continue to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords all the days of your life.
Let’s conclude by repeating (or feel free to sing!) the chorus, as a resolute affirmation to our Lord:
By the love that never ceased to hold me,
By the blood which thou didst shed for me,
While thy presence and thy power enfold me,
I renew my covenant with thee.
Commissioner William W. Francis is the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory. His wife, Commissioner Marilyn Francis, is the Territorial President for Women’s Ministries. Commissioners Francis have two adult children, Captain William Marshall and Susan Marjorie, plus six grandchildren.