William R. Newell, 1868–1956
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7, 8)
Calvary, meaning “the place of the skull,” is a place that everyone has heard about and that thousands of Holy Land tourists visit every year. But the significance of the events that took place on this hill nearly two thousand years ago are often not truly realized by many of those who merely view its location. “At Calvary” focuses our attention on the wondrous mercy and grace that Christ demonstrated through His death on the cross. The hymn exalts our Lord for conquering sin and death and bringing salvation to all who will accept Him as Redeemer and Lord. The “mighty gulf” between God and man was bridged with Christ’s sacrificial atonement at Calvary.
William R. Newell was a noted evangelist, Bible teacher, and later assistant superintendent at the Moody Bible Institute. One day on his way to teach a class, he was meditating about Christ’s suffering at Calvary and all that it meant to him as a lost sinner. These thoughts so impressed themselves on his mind that he stepped into an empty classroom and quickly scribbled down the lines of this hymn on the back of an envelope. A few minutes later he met his friend and colleague, Daniel B. Towner, music director at the institute, and showed him the text he had just written, suggesting that Towner try composing music for it. An hour later as Newell returned from class, Dr. Towner presented him with the melody and they sang their completed hymn together.
Following its publication in 1895, Christians everywhere have used this hymn enthusiastically to rejoice in the “riches of God’s grace” made available “At Calvary.”
Years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified, knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned—then I trembled at the law I’d spurned, till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.
Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus ev’rything; now I gladly own Him as my King; now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.
O the love that drew salvation’s plan! O the grace that bro’t it down to man! O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
Chorus: Mercy there was great, and grace was free; pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty—at Calvary.
For Today: Romans 5:6–11; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:19–23
Give joyful praise from a grateful heart for what the cross means—an instrument of human indignity became the means of our salvation.
Osbeck, K. W.
- For Christ, when we were yet of no strength, at his time died for the ungodly. Doubtless one will scarce die for a righteous man: but yet for a good man it may be that one dare die. But God setteth out his love toward us, seeing that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life, And not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Romans 5:6–11
- For that preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness: but unto us, which are saved, it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
- For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell. And through peace made by that blood of that his cross, to reconcile to himself through him, through him, I say, all things, both which are in earth, and which are in heaven. And you which were in times past strangers and enemies, because your minds were set in evil works, hath he now also reconciled, In that body of his flesh through death, to make you holy and unblameable, and without fault in his sight. If ye continue, grounded and established in the faith, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, whereof ye have heard, and which hath been preached to every creature, which is under heaven, whereof I Paul am a minister. Colossians 1:19–23