173

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed

Full Text

1 Alas! And did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?

2 Was it for sins that I have done
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
and love beyond degree!

3 Well might the sun in darkness hide
and shut its glories in
when Christ, the mighty Maker, died
for his own creatures’ sin.

4 Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears,
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Watts' original heading for the text, "Godly sorrow arising from the suffering of Christ," fits stanzas 1-3 well. Stanza 3 contains the profound paradox of God the creator dying for the sin of human creatures: "Christ, the mighty Maker, died for his own creatures' sin." Stanza 4 moves from penitent sorrow to gratitude and tears of joy.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song reflects the narrative of the suffering and death of Christ on Calvary, events whose significance and purpose is deepened by the confessions of the church. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 15-16, Questions and Answers 37-44 explain the significance of each step of his suffering. Question and Answer 40 testifies that Christ had to suffer death “because God’s justice and truth require it; nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the son of God.”

 
The Belgic Confession, Article 20 professes that “God made known his justice toward his Son…poured out his goodness and mercy on us…giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.”
Consider also the testimony of Belgic Confession, Article 21: “He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”

173

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed

Call to Worship

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we account him stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
—from Isaiah 53:1, 4-5, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Today we remember Jesus was crucified.
He was pierced for our transgressions.
He suffered and died for our iniquities.
We remember the sacrifice of our Lord with gratitude
because his death gives us life and brings redemption to the world.
Let us worship our Savior.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

Optional reading (Is. 53:1-5)
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm
of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty
that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance
that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering
and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others
hide their faces he was despised,
and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded
for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment
that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,
so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed.
—from 1 Peter 2:24, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

May I never boast of anything
except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
—Galatians 6:14, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
173

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed

Tune Information

Name
MARTYRDOM
Key
G Major
Meter
8.6.8.6.
173

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed

Hymn Story/Background

Written by Isaac Watts in six stanzas, this text was published in Watts' Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. The final line in stanza 1 originally read, "for such a worm as I."

Watts' original heading for the text, "Godly sorrow arising from the suffering of Christ," fits stanzas 1-3 well. Stanza 3 contains the profound paradox of God the creator dying for the sin of human creatures: "Christ, the mighty Maker, died for his own creatures' sin." Stanza 4 moves from penitent sorrow to gratitude and tears of joy.

MARTYRDOM was originally an eighteenth-century Scottish folk melody used for the ballad "Helen of Kirkconnel." Hugh Wilson adapted MARTYRDOM into a hymn tune in duple meter around 1800. A triple-meter version of the tune was first published by Robert A. Smith in his Sacred Music (1825), a year after Wilson's death. A legal dispute concerning who was the actual composer of MARTYRDOM arose and was settled in favor of Wilson. However, Smith's triple-meter arrangement is the one chosen most often. The tune's title presumably refers to the martyred Scottish Covenantor James Fenwick, whose last name is also the name of the town where Wilson lived. Consequently, in Scotland this tune has always had melancholy associations.    

MARTYRDOM has an effective melodic contour. Sing in harmony with subdued accom­paniment. One pulse per bar permits singing in two long lines rather than four phrases.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, 1674; d. London, England, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved in to the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author–writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as con­ducting a voluminous correspondence.
 
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
 
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" (405), and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (175).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Hugh Wilson (b. Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland, c. 1766; d. Duntocher, Scotland, 1824) learned the shoemaker trade from his father. He also studied music and mathematics and became proficient enough in various subjects to become a part-­time teacher to the villagers. Around 1800, he moved to Pollokshaws to work in the cotton mills and later moved to Duntocher, where he became a draftsman in the local mill. He also made sundials and composed hymn tunes as a hobby. Wilson was a member of the Secession Church, which had separated from the Church of Scotland. He served as a manager and precentor in the church in Duntocher and helped found its first Sunday school. It is thought that he composed and adapted a number of psalm tunes, but only two have survived because he gave instructions shortly before his death that all his music manuscripts were to be destroyed.
— Bert Polman

Although largely self-taught, Robert A. Smith (b. Reading, Berkshire, England, 1780; d. Edinburgh, Scotland, 1829)  was an excellent musician. By the age of ten he played the violin, cello, and flute, and was a church chorister. From 1802 to 1817 he taught music in Paisley and was precentor at the Abbey; from 1823 until his death he was precentor and choirmaster in St. George's Church, Edinburgh. He enlarged the  repertoire of tunes for psalm singing in Scotland, raised the precentor skills to a fine art, and greatly improved the singing of the church choirs he directed. Smith published his church music in Sacred Harmony (1820, 1825) and compiled a six-volume collection of Scottish songs, The Scottish Minstrel (1820-1824).
— Bert Polman

Nolan Williams (b. 1969) is a musicologist, theologian, American songwriter, and producer whose professional career defies conventional boundaries.
Best known for his work as Chief Music Editor of the bestselling African American Heritage Hymnal—a critically acclaimed compendium of music, with sales now surpassing 300,000 books worldwide, Williams is a noted scholar who has lectured extensively, including keynote addresses for the National Academy of Religion, Yale University’s Parks-King Lecture Series, Festival Musica y Filosofia (Naples, Italy), and Georgetown University Law School. He has also been featured on PBS, BET, the Word network, and internationally in the UK, France, Italy, and Slovenia.
Williams has written and produced music for television, film, and live events of national and international prominence. His eclectic compositional library includes: songwriting collaborations on numerous Grammy-nominated projects; commissioned compositions by Georgetown University and the National Symphony Orchestra; musical works performed by some of the country’s leading orchestras, including the Charleston Symphony, Memphis Symphony, and Kennedy Center Opera House orchestras; and, original gospel songs featured on his debut CD, inSpiration, released nationwide in 2010. He has collaborated with a range of industry artists—from Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and India.Arie to Denyce Graves, Yolanda Adams, and Michael McDonald.
Through NEWorks Productions, Williams has produced inspirational arts programming with the Smithsonian Institute, the U.S. Army, Georgetown University, the Arts and Humanities Council of Washington, DC, and the Dallas-based Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Williams and NEWorks have been especially privileged to collaborate with the Kennedy Center on a number of landmark projects, including musical direction of the finale for the 77th Birthday Tribute for Senator Edward M. Kennedy and production of the 105 Voices of History HBCU National Choir concert. Most recently, Williams has worked alongside Garth Ross, Director of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone program, to plan an unprecedented nine-day celebration, as the Artistic Consultant for Joyful Sounds: Gospel Across America. Williams is also the Artistic Director for the National Symphony Orchestra’s first-ever full concert of African American sacred music on Saturday, April 24, 2010.
Williams serves as Minister of Music at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He also consults with numerous churches across the country on matters of music ministry and worship. In October 2010, Williams will return to his alma mater, Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio), to conduct master classes and serve as Music Director for the Northern Ohio Hymn Festival.
— Kennedy Center

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