There is good reason why some hymns become “timeless”: they capture profound biblical truth and communicate it in a way that reaches the heart. Among the top tier of hymns written in the last 200 years is (in my humble estimation!) Not What My Hands Have Done by Horatio Bonar (see lyrics below).
The key truth is that my hands, my labors, my feelings, and my earthly sorrows could not do anything to save me; they were too weak, too polluted, and too interested in the sins I enjoyed. The only solution is God’s powerful word that called me to true faith and repentance, his powerful atonement that truly covers my sins, his strength that upholds me through continued trials and temptations.
Having received Christ by faith I can sing the last stanza with victory: he deserves my praise, he is worthy of my trust, he is the object of my love because he first loved me!
Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.
I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.
I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.