The Hymn that Spawned a Book

By Elizabeth Prata

Hymns are important doctrinal mechanisms to get truth into our brain, and therefore transform it. Remember, the mind in Christ is constantly transforming. As we progress in sanctification, the mind thinks different thoughts, seeks new desires, and is content with different things than when it was aligned with the world. God’s truth constantly renews our mind, so, we need to absorb God’s truth in order to provide that springboard for the transformation. Sermons of course are one was this is accomplished. Hymns with good doctrine are another.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2).

For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Below is an interview from 2010 regarding Sinclair Ferguson’s inspiration for his then-new book By Grace Alone, based on the hymn O How His Grace Amazes Me. When Ferguson heard it, it gripped his imagination.

Pastor Conrad Mbewe wrote about the hymn and its author, pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomana, an African Baptist pastor in Burundi. (1915-1975). Mbewe wrote-

I think that Oh, how the grace of God amazes me should rank among such hymns as Amazing grace by John Newton. To begin with, it is an experiential hymn. It speaks about our experience of the grace of God. Anyone who “has been there” will immediately identify with it. Something in your soul resonates with the lyrics as you sing the hymn. It is not the senseless excitement of those who are drunk with wine, but an informed warmth of heart because of a godly reflection on what God has done for you in Christ. And by the time you get to the last stanza, you really want the whole of creation to join you in singing your divine Saviour’s eternal praise.

Sinclair said that he had begun a project with the church organist to play through and intently listen to all the hymns in the hymn book at their church. They did this over successive nights. When they came to O How His Grace Amazes Me, Ferguson was struck by the power of the hymn and its progression into all the important doctrines, and unusually, on grace.

The hymn caused him to ponder these things for a good while, until finally breaking forth into the book he decided to write.

When Sinclair is asked if the world needed yet another book on grace, he said the world should be filled with books on grace. Amen! I love the doctrine of grace. I pray that the music at your services cause you to truly reflect on the great doctrines and the awesome attributes of God.

Here is Emmanuel Sibomana’s hymn O How His Grace Amazes Me:

Modern arrangement, 4-min:

Traditional arrangement with organ, 7-min-

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