When This Passing World Is Done

Biblical Authority Devotional: Hymns of Praise, Part 7

by Steve Fazekas on September 30, 2011

Steve Fazekas, AiG–U.S., highlights Robert Murray McCheyne’s hymn, “When This Passing World Is Done,” reminding us of the debt Christ has paid for us.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12–13)

Robert Murray McCheyne passed into the presence of his Savior at age 30. Sickly in body, the brevity of his days did not diminish his zeal to see souls enter heaven, nor did physical weakness cloud the ever-growing recognition of his debt to the One who paid the ransom for his soul.

A noted preacher and a gifted poet, McCheyne wrote of the growing sense of indebtedness consuming him that would not be fully understood until he stood in the presence of Christ and surveyed life’s history.” This overwhelming sense of obligation led him to address a theme seldom considered in contemporary Christian verse and modern hymnology—the wrath of God upon the unrepentant at the final judgment.

Then McCheyne reveled in the imputed righteousness of Christ, framing his indebtedness in a stanza that all Christians should contemplate. He wrote, “When I stand before the throne, dressed in beauty not my own.” This imputed righteousness is showcased by the sweet sense of forgiveness, which came from the presence of the Holy Spirit who moved him toward an even greater sense of obligation.

When this passing world is done, when has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory, looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—not till then—how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call, on the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink on the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—not till then—how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne, dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art, love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then Lord, shall I fully know—not till then—how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me, wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Savior’s side, by the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show, by my love, how much I owe.1

Today’s big idea: only when we understand that we truly deserve death and hell can we truly begin to comprehend just how much we owe God for saving us.

What to pray: praise God for saving you from His wrath.


  1. Lyrics retrieved from www.cyberhymnal.org.


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