Matthias Loy, the son of German immigrants, was born in the Spring of 1828 in Pennsylvania. one of seven children. His mother was the one who raised her children in the Lutheran church and made sure they had a proper Christian education. When Loy was 14, he became an apprentice printer in Harrisburg, PA, for six years. He did not neglect his studies at this time, even going so far as to learn Latin and Greek. While he was there, a Lutheran pastor encouraged him to go into the minister.
After his apprenticeship, though he had basically decided to be a pastor, he went to Circleville, OH, in 1847 to print a German paper for United Brethren Publishing House. The Lord, however, clearly was directing him towards the ministry, and another Lutheran pastor told him to depart at once and go to the Columbus Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Ohio. With the help of this same pastor, he was able to leave his job and afford to attend the seminary.
Loy was called as a pastor to a church in Delaware, OH, two years later. During this time, he married Mary Willey and together had seven children. He served here for ten years and then became president of the Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and edited the Lutheran Standard both in 1860. Five years later, he became a professor of theology at Capital University. After his successor as president of the synod died, Loy became president again of the synod and became president of the university. He continued as a professor until 1902 and was president of the synod periodically.
Calling back to his publishing days, Loy created the Columbus Theological Magazine. That same year in 1881, he formed the Synodical conference, though the Ohio Synod ended up withdrawing. Even so, Loy worked diligently for the Lutheran church to have a strong presence in Ohio. Moreover, he helped establish congregations across America and in two other countries!
Over the years, Loy wrote several books and magazines and even served as a professor of English at the Concordia Seminary in St. Lewis. He was an avid reader, enjoying the works of Walther (though later rejecting some of his teachings) and was continuously studying the Lutheran Confessions. He also translated a number of hymns and books, including writings of Luther, catechisms, and the works of reformers contemporary to Luther. But he also wrote and published several hymns, many of which can be found in LCMS hymnals and the Lutheran hymnals that came before. Among these published hymns is “The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace.”
This hymn is typically paired with the tune HERR JESU CHRIST, DICH ZU UNS WEND. This tune, often joined with the Lutheran hymn of the same name, has been credited to a duke of Saxe-Weimar, but this is inconclusive. The melody appears to have been based on traditional music, picked up at the end of the 16th century, and then adapted for the Cantionale Germanicum in 1628. It was then adapted in a few other hymnals by various composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. His contributions can still be heard in the music today. These compositions contributed to the setting we attribute this hymn to today.
True to his nature as a publisher, hymnist, and author, Matthias Loy was writing to the end, apparently going home to the Lord in the middle of writing “When the Lord Makes a demand…” in January of 1915. He is considered one of the top Lutheran theologians of the 1800s in America, and especially of the Ohio Synod. But of what he has written and what he did, we can find hope and comfort in the words of his hymn “The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace.”
The Gospel shows the Father’s grace,
Who sent His Son to save our race,
Proclaims how Jesus lived and died
That we might thus be justified.
In this stanza, we see clearly two passages in Scripture: John 3:16 and Romans 3:21-26. It is an encapsulation of the Gospels and what the Gospel message is. The Gospel shows and proclaims to us that the Lord was gracious by sending His only begotten Son to die for us so that WE, fallen, rebellious, stubborn children of wrath may be made righteous in His sight, not by our own works, but by the life and death of the Christ (Jhn. 3:16-17, Rom. 3:21-26, 5:1-9, Phil. 2:5-11, 1 Jhn. 4:9-10, Gal. 4:4-5, 1 Tim. 2:3-6, Heb. 9:27-28). The Gospel is the means of this grace (Rom. 1:16-17). We see grace in the Holy Scriptures. We also saw and received this in our baptism, and we see and receive it regularly in the Eucharist. Thus we are shown this grace by the means of God’s Word and the Sacraments. Loy perfectly captures this wonder and mercy in this single verse. God sent Jesus to save all people, and that grace is amazing. And yet, there is even more to marvel at.
It sets the Lamb before our eyes,
Who made the atoning sacrifice,
And calls the souls with guilt oppressed
To come and find eternal rest.
It brings the Savior’s righteousness
To robe our souls in royal dress;
From all our guilt it brings release
And gives the troubled conscience peace.
It is the pow’r of God to save
From sin and Satan and the grave;
It works the faith which firmly clings
To all the treasures which it brings.
It bears to all the tidings glad
And bids their hearts no more be sad;
The weary, burdened souls it cheers
And banishes their guilty fears.
This is one of those hymns where you would be remiss if you left out a verse or two. Thus, I place all of these verses together. This series of verses should go together because they all describe the same thing: the Gospel. What is the Gospel? We learned that in the first verse. But what does it mean to us? What does it do?
The Gospel makes us see what was needed for our atonement (Jhn. 1:29, Heb. 2:17, 1 Pet. 1:18-20, 1 Jhn. 2:2, 4:10). It makes the guilty free, paying our debt, bringing peace to our lives because we have found peace with God (Rom. 5:1-8, 8:1, Gal. 3:13-14). The Gospel removes our filthy rags and unrighteousness, making us holy to stand before God in royal robes cleansed with His precious blood (Matt. 22:11-12, Cor. 5:1-5, Rev. 7:13-17). The Gospel is also what saved us from the consequences of our sin – death – and eternal separation from God (Acts 13:39, Rom. 6:18-22). We have been justified by Jesus. Furthermore, it gives us a defense against the evil one (Eph. 6:10-20). For all these things, though any one is enough (!), we cling to this hope, this trust, found in the Gospel, seeking the means of this grace regularly. And through it, though we face hardship and trials in the world, we can have joy, happiness, and peace (Rom. 5:1-5, 1 Pet. 1:8). Though we were dead and burdened by our sin, we now find joy, freedom, and life with Christ! We no longer fear condemnation because in Christ, through this Gospel, we are now justified by faith through grace (Rom. 5:1-2, 8:1-2, Col. 3:3-4).
May we in faith its message learn
Nor thanklessly its blessings spurn;
May we in faith its truth confess
And praise the Lord, our righteousness.
Now that we know all that the Gospel is and what it has done for us, what shall we do in response? We shall faithfully learn the message of the Gospel as it gives us faith, give thanks for all the Lord has done for us, share this truth, and praise the Lord, who has made us righteous (Rom. 10:12-17, Phil. 3:8-11, Col. 3:16)! It is a wonderful story that never ends. We continue to receive God’s grace every day, learn more about Him, serve Him in all we do, and praise Him once again for His lovingkindness! This message of the Gospel is a wondrous thing that has been shown and proclaimed to us, and getting to sing about such amazing grace is a wonderful and comforting thing as well.
Blessings to you and yours,
~Madelyn Rose Craig
“580. The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace.” The Lutheran Service Book. 2006.
C. George Fry. “Matthias Loy, Leader of Ohio’s Lutherans.” Ohio History. Vol. 76. p. 183.
C. George Fry. “Matthias Loy: Theologian of American Lutheran Orthodoxy.” The Springfielder. Vol. 38, No. 4. Oct 1974. pp. 319, 330.
“Loy, Matthias, 1828-1915.” Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook: Biographies and Sources.
Mathias Loy. Cyber Hymnal.