Behold the Savior on the cross

Behold the Savior on the cross, A spectacle of woe!

Tune: MARTYRDOM (Wilson)
Published in 16 hymnals

Representative Text

1 Behold the Saviour on the cross,
a spectacle of woe!
See from his agonizing wounds
the blood incessant flow;
2 till death’s pale ensigns o’er his cheek
and trembling lips were spread;
till light forsook his closing eyes,
and life his drooping head!

3 ’Tis finish'd — was his latest voice;
these sacred accents o’er,
he bow'd his head, gave up the ghost,
and suffered pain no more.
4 ’Tis finish'd — The Messiah dies
for sins, but not his own;
the great redemption is complete,
and Satan’s pow’r o’erthrown.

5 ’Tis finish'd — All his groans are past;
his blood, his pain, and toils,
have fully vanquished our foes,
and crown'd him with their spoils.
6 ’Tis finish'd — Legal worship ends,
and gospel ages run;
all old things now are past away,
and a new world begun.

Source: The Irish Presbyterian Hymbook #R44a

Text Information

First Line: Behold the Savior on the cross, A spectacle of woe!
Title: Behold the Savior on the cross
Source: Christian Psalmist
Copyright: Public Domain


Behold the Saviour on the cross. Cento, 1781. [Passiontide.] First appeared] as No. 44 in the Draft Scottish Translations and Paraphrases, 1781, as a version of John xix. 30, in 6 stanzas of C.M. It is thus made up: stanza i. is altered from stanzas i. and iv., and stanza ii. is exactly stanza v. of Joseph Stennett's "Behold the Saviour of the world " in his Hymns on the Lord's Supper, 1705 (edition 1709, p. 57). Another hymn in that collection (edition 1709, p. 66), "Tis finished, the Redeemer cries," furnishes, in its stanza i., the ground of stanza iii., in its stanza iii. of stanza v., and in its stanza v. of stanza vi. The remaining stanza (stanza iv.).is a cento from Charles Wesley's "'Tis finish'd, the Messias dies" (q.v.). Thus though the hymn has generally been ascribed to “Blair", as in the markings by the eldest daughter of W. Cameron (q. v.), he can¬not be regarded as having done more than make the cento and rewrite the whole to C.M. In the public worship edition of that year issued by the Church of Scotland and still in use, it is unaltered. From the 1781 it has passed into a few modern hymnals, as in England, in Morrell and How's Collection, 1854, and the Irvingite Collection, 1864; and in America in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book, 1834, Presbyterian Psalms and Hymns, 1843, and Adams and Chapin's Collection, 1846. In Miss Leeson's Paraphrases and Hymns for Congregational Singing, 1853, No. 74, omitting stanza v., vi. In the English Presbyterian Psalms and Hymns, 1867, No. 484, and Church Praise, 1883, No. 80, stanzas iii.-vi. beginning " 'Tis finished! was his latest voice " were selected; and the same altered and beginning "'Tis finished—the Messiah cried " in the Free Church Hymn Book, 1873, No. 16. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



MARTYRDOM was originally an eighteenth-century Scottish folk melody used for the ballad "Helen of Kirkconnel." Hugh Wilson (b. Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland, c. 1766; d. Duntocher, Scotland, 1824) adapted MARTYRDOM into a hymn tune in duple meter around 1800. A triple-meter version of the tune was fir…

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The Irish Presbyterian Hymbook #R44a

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