All you really need to know in just one song

Ten verses is quite long for a hymn now-a-days, but back at the time of the Reformation they seem to have liked very long hymns. And, at ten verses, this one is long; but I post it in its entirety as it is not only long, but good. You see, back at the time of the Reformation they realized that music was a very effective method of getting a message across, and so they wrote hymns to teach. And this hymn teaches indeed. It teaches about our sinfulness (utter depravity, in fact), about our need for God's grace, the role of God's law in revealing our sin to us, Christ's active and passive obedience (His obeying God's law in our place and dying for our sin), the Gospel, faith, justification, and the works which spring from faith. All that in one song!

Its writer, Paul Speratus (1484-1551) worked with Martin Luther to compile the very first Protestant hymn book, and from this hymn of his one can learn all that is truly necessary to know.

Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.

What God did in His law demand
And none to Him could render
Caused wrath and woe on every hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the Law requires,
And lost is our condition.

It was a false, misleading dream
That God His Law had given
So sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain Heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.

From sin our flesh could not abstain
Sin held its sway unceasing;
The task was useless and in vain,
Our guilt was e’er increasing.
None can remove sin’s poisoned dart
Or purify our guileful heart—
So deep is our corruption.

Yet as the Law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and hath God’s anger stilled,
Our human nature sharing.
He hath for us the Law obeyed
And thus the Father’s vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.

Since Christ hath full atonement made
And brought us to salvation,
Each Christian therefore may be glad
And build on this foundation.
Thy grace alone, dear Lord, I plead,
Thy death is now my life indeed,
For Thou hast paid my ransom.

Let me not doubt, but trust in Thee,
Thy Word cannot be broken;
Thy call rings out, “Come unto Me!”
No falsehood hast Thou spoken.
Baptized into Thy precious Name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.

The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes men conscience-stricken;
The Gospel then doth enter in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.

Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
Yet faith alone doth justify,
Works serve thy neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God that saved us by His grace—
All glory to His merit!
O Triune God in Heav’n above,
Who hast revealed Thy saving love,
Thy bless├Ęd Name be hallowed.