Go to Dark Gethsemane

Full Text

1 Go to dark Gethsemane,
all who feel the tempter’s power;
your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with him one bitter hour:
turn not from his griefs away–
teach us, Lord, how we should pray.

2 Follow to the judgment hall,
view the Lord of life arraigned.
Oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss–
help us, Lord, to bear our cross.

3 Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
there, adoring at his feet,
mark the miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete:
“It is finished!” hear him cry–
save us, Lord, when death draws nigh.

4 Early hasten to the tomb
where they laid his breathless clay:
all is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes.
Savior, teach us so to rise.

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text exhorts us to follow Christ as we meditate on his sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane (st. 1), on his suffering on the cross (st. 2), and on his sacrificial death (st. 3); each stanza ends with a corresponding petition.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The first few stanzas of this hymn recount the experiences of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Belgic Confession, Articles 20 and 21 confess the significance of these sufferings in Christ’s priestly role and how he “endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”


The account of his suffering and death in stanzas 1-4 is given a much more full explanation in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 15-16, Questions and Answers 37-43: “Nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the son of God.”


The end of stanza 5 proclaims the resurrection of Christ as the source of our hope. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 clearly testifies of its benefits for us: “…so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death…we too are already raised to a new life…(and it) is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.”


Go to Dark Gethsemane

Introductory/Framing Text

We stand beneath the cross of Jesus,
and we see there his dying form.
Witnessing his suffering and his great love for us
compels us to come before him in prayer.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Call to Worship

Holy and loving God,
as we prepare to set aside our busyness
and to focus intently on Jesus’ suffering and death,
we ask for eyes to see all of the amazing things that Jesus’ death
means for understanding you, your love, and our salvation.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


Do not hurry away from the cross.
Linger near
to survey,
to stand,
to ponder our Savior’s suffering and death.
Consider, carefully and well,
the preciousness of his sacrifice for you,
the greatness of his mercy toward you.
Then depart from Golgotha confidently,
knowing that the Spirit
will keep you in your crucified Savior’s strong embrace
and prompt you to trust and obey him always.
The God of peace will go with you. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Go to Dark Gethsemane

Tune Information

D Major



Go to Dark Gethsemane

Hymn Story/Background

James Montgomery  wrote two versions of "Go to Dark Gethsemane," the first of which appeared in Thomas Cotterill's Selection of Psalms and Hymns in 1820. The second version, originally published in his Christian Psalmist (1825), is the more common one found in hymnals today. Small alter­ations have been made in the text, most notably the change from a command ("learn of Jesus Christ to pray") to a prayer of petition in the final phrase in each stanza.
The text exhorts us to follow Christ as we meditate on his sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane (st. 1), on his suffering on the cross (st. 2), and on his sacrificial death (st. 3); each stanza ends with a corresponding petition.
REDHEAD is named for its composer, who published it as number 76 in his influential Church Hymn Tunes, Ancient and Modem (1853) as a setting for the hymn text "Rock of Ages." It has been associated with Psalm 51 since the 1912 Psalter, where the tune was named AJALON. The tune is also known as PETRA from its association with "Rock of Ages," and GETHSEMANE, which derives from the text "Go to Dark Gethsemane."
Of the three long lines constituting REDHEAD, the last is almost identical to the first, and the middle line has an internal repeat. Well-suited to singing in parts, this music is also appropriate for unaccompanied singing.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

The son of Moravian parents who died on a West Indies mission field while he was in boarding school, James Montgomery (b. Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, 1771; d. Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, 1854) inherited a strong religious bent, a passion for missions, and an independent mind. He was editor of the Sheffield Iris (1796-1827), a newspaper that sometimes espoused radical causes. Montgomery was imprisoned briefly when he printed a song that celebrated the fall of the Bastille and again when he described a riot in Sheffield that reflected unfavorably on a military commander. He also protested against slavery, the lot of boy chimney sweeps, and lotteries. Associated with Christians of various persuasions, Montgomery supported missions and the British Bible Society. He published eleven volumes of poetry, mainly his own, and at least four hundred hymns. Some critics judge his hymn texts to be equal in quality to those of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. Many were published in Thomas Cotterill's Selection of Psalms and Hymns (1819 edition) and in Montgomery's own Songs of Zion (1822), Christian Psalmist (1825), and Original Hymns (1853).
— Carrie Steenwyk

Composer Information

Richard Redhead (b. Harrow, Middlesex, England, 1820; d. Hellingley, Sussex, England, 1901) was a chorister at Magdalen College, Oxford. At age nineteen he was invited to become organist at Margaret Chapel (later All Saints Church), London. Greatly influencing the musical tradition of the church, he remained in that position for twenty-five years as organist and an excellent trainer of the boys' choirs. Redhead and the church's rector, Frederick Oakeley, were strongly committed to the Oxford Movement, which favored the introduction of Roman elements into Anglican worship. Together they produced the first Anglican plainsong psalter, Laudes Diurnae (1843). Redhead spent the latter part of his career as organist at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Paddington (1864-1894).
— Bert Polman
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