Lenten Hymns and their Story

March 17, 2023

“Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain”

In January 1815, James Montgomery (1771-1854) wrote a review of many different books, poems and hymns.  He was accused of sounding more like a preacher than a poet.  As a result of this, he wrote, and began the turn to more “spiritual things”.   He anchors this hymn in the prophecy of Zechariah 13:1.   In the first verse, however, he clarifies how this fountain was opened [when our Savior died] and expands the personal imagery of his hymn.  
Each of the first three verses enacts a graceful dialectic of invitation and proclamation.  In the course of the invitations, Montgomery reveals the depth of the depravity afflicting humanity.  He starts with original sin that has “ruined” all people and then surveys the many and varied situations in which sinners suffer.
As he reveals the harsh reality of sin, he also proclaims the fullness of salvation.  For each call to “come” in verses 1 and 3, there is a proclamation of God’s grace that is located “here."  In verse one this place is “Calvary’s Holy Mountain”.  In verse three he points us to the person of Christ theologically with the language of justification [“guilty find free remission].    

Come to Calvary’s holy mountain, sinners, ruined by the fall;
Here a pure and healing fountain flows for you, for me, for all,
In a full, perpetual tide, opened when our Savior died.

LSB 435

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