At Calvary (Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride)
by D. B. Towner
Years I spent in vanity and pride
Caring not my Lord was crucified
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary
Mercy there was great, and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty at 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 given to Jesus everything
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 brought it down to man!
O, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
William R. Newell (1868-1956) is remembered fondly as a pastor, evangelist, Bible teacher, author, conference speaker and writer of the beloved hymn At Calvary. And he is remembered as a humble man who recognized that it was only by the grace of God that he was able to accomplish so many good things.
William was a very troubled and wayward teenager. In desperation, his father wrote to the president of Moody Bible Institute, and begged him to allow the enrollment of his son. Since the college was open to serious Bible students, the president was at first resistant, but finally agreed that Newell would be enrolled with the proviso that he would meet with the president daily, and would take his studies seriously.
A father's prayers, a college president's commitment, and the three steps forward, two steps back efforts of Newell eventually resulted in the young man not only graduating, but several years later returning to Moody Bible Institute as a teacher.
In 1895, William Newell put the testimony of his life into poetry format. His friend and fellow Bible teacher, Doctor Daniel Towner, Director of music at Moody Bible, read the words and knew they would be powerful when put to music. The result was the beautiful hymn At Calvary.