Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity joined with pow’r:
he is able, he is able, he is able,
he is willing; doubt no more;
he is willing; doubt no more.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
bruised and broken by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all:
not the righteous, not the righteous,
not the righteous—
sinners Jesus came to call;
sinners Jesus came to call.
Lo! th’incarnate God, ascended,
pleads the merit of his blood;
venture on him, venture wholly,
let no other trust intrude:
none but Jesus, none but Jesus, none but Jesus
can do helpless sinners good,
can do helpless sinners good.
Come, ye needy, come and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
true belief and true repentance,
ev’ry grace that brings you nigh,
without money, without money, without money,
come to Jesus Christ and buy;
come to Jesus Christ and buy.
Let not conscience make you linger,
nor of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness he requireth
is to feel your need of him;
this he gives you, this he gives you, this he gives you;
‘tis the Spirit’s rising beam;
‘tis the Spirit’s rising beam.
Do you remember a time as a kid when you were scared to death to tell your parents what you had done? Did you try, albeit unsuccessfully, to fix the problem before you approached them? Did you prepare a speech, a kind of rehearsed preamble to your “I did something stupid” admission in order to mitigate their response? Did you attempt to reason through the situation in a hilariously doomed endeavor to make your actions seem plausible? If you were like me as a child, you tried everything you could think of, racked your brain to think of some possible solution, agonizing over the situation with dread and despair before you would eventually admit defeat and trudge slowly towards the house, overcome with worry, and accompanied by a nauseated pit in your stomach of what was surely to come.
Now, how many of us as grown adults still resort back to this behavior? When we have sinned, do we come to our heavenly father in this beleaguered, despairing manner? Generally speaking, there are usually two types of believers. The first kind are a little too familiar with messing up, too nonchalant in their apologies, and too little bothered by their sin. They tend to approach God almost flippantly. They expect boundless mercy from God, minimal obedience from themselves, and are the kinds of people to whom Paul asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1) There’s a reason he vehemently exclaimed, “By no means!” (Rom. 6:2) If this description feels familiar, then this hymn was not necessarily written for you. Its truths are yours, but its lesson may not be the lesson you need to learn.
However, there is the second kind of Christian. This kind of person carries a weight of guilt which is rarely assuaged. Forgiveness seems a foreign concept to them, and they are convinced that God’s mercy must be bought with spectacular obedience. They search the scriptures for assurance, for relief from their constant anxiety, but they are always brought low and discouraged by a sentence here, a fragment there. They have no problem accepting that they are sinners in need of a Savior; instead, they have a problem believing that the Savior is, in fact, their Savior. “What must I do to be saved? Surely there is more? What if I haven’t done enough?” If this is you, dear child, then this hymn needs to be seared into your memory.
“Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity joined with power.” Jesus ready stands to save you. Full stop. I have said it once, and I’ll say it again: Jesus is more ready to save you than you are to be saved. And you know how much your soul longs to be saved, how desperately your conscience aches to be freed from guilt. He is full of pity and compassion, but he is also full of power: power and authority to save his people, and to save them for eternity. “Come, ye needy, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify…without money come to Jesus Christ and buy.” Come, come and welcome. Don’t do anything else, merely welcome God’s free bounty. You can do nothing else; you cannot buy salvation with works, with sufficient self-flagellation, or with any other offering known to man. No currency is accepted at Calvary except for the priceless blood of Christ. He has paid your debt and given you an everlasting inheritance, so come to Jesus Christ and buy, but your every purchase is on his tab.
“Come, ye weary, heavy laden, bruised and broken by the fall; if you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all: not the righteous—sinners Jesus came to call.” There is a kind of inverted pride which can encourage a martyr complex; a stubborn resistance to ever acknowledging someone else’s generosity or unwarranted forgiveness. It is a great blow to our egos to forgo an earned respect. We feel more in control when we play our own judge, jury, and executioner, when we pronounce our own sentences and labor tirelessly under our own penalties. This is a death sentence for the soul, for we cannot play our own Savior. If you seek to earn Christ’s salvation by your own devices, on your own terms, and through your own judgement, you will only earn wrath.
“Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream; all the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.” We would not hesitate to tell an unbeliever, “Do not attempt to get your life together and then come to Christ. Come to Christ first! Everything else in your life will follow.” And yet, sometimes as believers, we still struggle with the age-old mistake of trying to fix our sin first before asking God for deliverance from it. Even Adam and Eve did not turn to the Lord for aid when the fruit had been eaten; there was no call for help in Eden. They panicked. They tried to remedy their dire situation in almost comical ways. Then, out of pure desperation, they attempted to hide from their Creator. But God initiated reconciliation. Godalways initiates reconciliation. Dead men cannot save themselves.
“Lo! The incarnate God, ascended, pleads the merit of his blood; venture on him, venture wholly, let no other trust intrude.” In the heavenly court of justice, you have the greatest defense attorney of all time, who for eternity has not, and will never, lose any case ever given to him. At the end of all things when final judgement is rendered, you have the perfect mediator; the glorified Son of God who is ever interceding with the Father on your behalf. Your judge is also your advocate, your redeemer, and your great high priest.
For those of you who are weary, exhausted by the weight of guilt you refuse to surrender, know this: You will never find peace if you will not trust your Savior for everything. Trust may not come easily to you, especially if your earthly father’s favor was a poor reflection of your heavenly father’s love. Some of you have never known unconditional love, but merely a fleeting approval upon a satisfactory performance. Your worth was bound up in another’s capricious temperament; one day beloved, the next despised. Your heavenly father is nothing like this. His love is steadfast, unshakable, never fluctuating, with no strings attached. He beckons you to approach him. Because of Christ, you are his delight. Too often, in reaction to our sin we tend to think along the lines of, “I messed up. My dad’s gonna kill me.” Instead, as children of the King, we can say, “I messed up. I need to call my dad.” Rest assured, dear Christian, God does not offer redemption to his people begrudgingly. His grace is freely and cheerfully given. Come, believe, trust, and rest. “None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good.”