The Double Cure: a closer look by Randall Barfield
We’ve known these hymns all our lives nearly. In this case, Vestal Goodman kept singing on one of my DVDs about the double cure but I’d miss what comprised the double cure. The little mystery, as in “Pass Me Not”, wouldn’t let me go. So, this gives me a pretext for pulling the hymn out and investigating some. The lyricist was Mr. Augustus Toplady about the time of the American Revolutionary War.
Let’s take 2 lines at a time. The hymn starts out as follows:
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;”
Jesus Christ is the Rock. He’s been around now for more than 2,000 years so this explains the ages. A cleft is a crevice or crack, so just as a fiddler crab or some other creature, we can hide in a rock’s crevice. Hide from many dangers that lie outside such a refuge.It’s 1763 so the author likes Thee for Christ instead of the You we commonly use today. Christ can and will protect us as will a rock with a crevice.
“Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed,”
Here we have divine water and blood. We think of holy water as well as bodily fluids that certainly are not ordinary. The riven side was caused by the atrocious acts of the Roman soldiers- following orders- as Jesus was nailed to the Cross on Calvary and poked and cut.
“Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.”
OK, here we have the request for both the water and the blood of the wounded Christ to be and act as the cure for our sin. The effect of sin the author says is two-fold: there is guilt and there is power. The sinner feels guilty when sinning and after sinning- who knows how often- and there is an effect of power that sin itself (the devil?) has over the human being (indeed, the ‘things of the world’ we were taught and warned about as kids in Sunday school or catechism).
“Not the labors of my hands, Can fulfill Thy law’s demands:”
I think this is rather clear. To me it means that works (read good works), however noble, aren’t going to save us or make up in any way for our transgressions.
“Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,”
OK, zeal is enthusiasm for a cause. We don’t want to lose our zeal for Christ or for heaven and eternal life.By tears we want always to be sensitive toward Christ’s purpose, teachings, and sacrifice for us.
“All for sin could not atone; Thou must save and Thou alone.”
Here, we learn that neither zeal nor the tears mentioned above can atone for our sins or save us. Only He- Christ- can save us and by His choice. Not mom, not dad, not the preacher, not the priest, not the church’s sanctuary, not the organ music, and so on. We know this, of course, because in the parable of the vineyard, the owner says it’s his vineyard and he’ll do with it as he pleases. Christ, Himself, in relating this parable, compares the vineyard with the kingdom of heaven.
“Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling;”
This is like “Just As I Am”, a hymn, of course, and the title of Billy Graham’s autobiography. It means coming to Christ ‘naked’ with no pretenses, no frills, no valuable gifts (which He doesn’t need, of course). The decision has been made to cling to the cross- to be a follower of Christ’s. It doesn’t by any means mean being perfect, which is impossible for the human being anyway. Christ knows this perfectly well or He would not have asked the crowd who among them was without sin (to cast the first stone).
“Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace;”
We are metaphorically naked but Christ will “dress” us. We all know what new clothes, and especially nice clothes, do for us and our egos. Christ can do this for us and much more. We are a fairly helpless lot, we humans. We can’t keep from engaging in warfare among ourselves, from harboring petty envy, from hating, from cheating, and a host of other negatives; however, there are the positives too, of course. Thus, we are worth saving. By the grace of God- Jesus Christ- good things happen and we seek that grace of His, whether now or later or both.
“Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die!”
“For all have sinned…” St. Paul tells us, so that solves that mystery and any pretense some of us may harbor to the contrary. So we seek the metaphorical blood and water, to be washed in these precious and divine liquids for eternity’s sake. We cannot live eternally unless we are “washed in the blood of the Lamb.”Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, called Him the Lamb of God.
“While I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyes shall close in death,”
Fleeting. This means we are here today gone tomorrow. We can take only the moment for granted. No particle of the future is guaranteed. We can only expect and hope. All our eyes one day will close in death here on earth unless we are here the day Christ returns. This is God’s will and, therefore, a mandate we must all abide by like it or not. This is the part the American Heart Assn. and the American Cancer Society never mention. [I know, it’s not their job to mention it] Yes, we must take care of our bodies (temples of God) but we must not dream foolishly that they will last forever here on earth.
“When I soar to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne,”
Here the author gives us a glimpse of the glory of leaving this cruel and ill world for something better, although we have not and cannot see it with our own eyes. We get an image of Christ (not alone but with God) on Judgment Day the Bible tells us. The author is reinforcing the teaching that judgment will definitely occur.
The last line of the hymn (I have only 4 verses with me) is the same as the first- “Rock of Ages…”
I hope you enjoyed this little tour through a hymn. Sometimes we sing and sing but don’t actually stop and reflect upon what it is we are singing. What do the words mean? Why did the author choose a particular word, other than to rhyme, of course?If someone ever asks us about the double cure, we now can enlighten them. The double cure (for sin) is comprised of the precious and divine water and blood flowing from a wounded Jesus Christ on Calvary.