A Dying Savior

He dies, the Heavenly Lover dies

Author: Isaac Watts
Tune: BERLIN (Billings)
Published in 17 hymnals

Printable scores: MusicXML
Audio files: MIDI

Representative Text

1 He dies, the heav'nly lover dies,
The tidings strike a doleful sound!
On my poor heart-strings, deep he lies,
In the cold caverns of the ground.

2 Come saints, and drop a tear or two,
On the dear bosom of your God;
He shed a thousand drops for you,
A thousand drops of richest blood!

3 Here's love and grief beyond degree,
The Lord of glory dies for men;
But lo! what sudden joys I see,
Jesus the dead, revives again!

4 The rising God forsakes his tomb,
Up to his father's court he flies;
Cherubic legions guard him home,
And shout him welcome to the skies.

Source: Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs, for the use of religious assemblies and private Christians: being a collection #XV

Author: Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts was the son of a schoolmaster, and was born in Southampton, July 17, 1674. He is said to have shown remarkable precocity in childhood, beginning the study of Latin, in his fourth year, and writing respectable verses at the age of seven. At the age of sixteen, he went to London to study in the Academy of the Rev. Thomas Rowe, an Independent minister. In 1698, he became assistant minister of the Independent Church, Berry St., London. In 1702, he became pastor. In 1712, he accepted an invitation to visit Sir Thomas Abney, at his residence of Abney Park, and at Sir Thomas' pressing request, made it his home for the remainder of his life. It was a residence most favourable for his health, and for the prosecution of his literary… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: He dies, the Heavenly Lover dies
Title: A Dying Savior
Author: Isaac Watts
Source: Lyric Poems
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain


He dies! the Heavenly Lover dies. I. Watts. [Passiontide.] First published in his Horae Lyricae, 2nd edition, 1709, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines, and headed, "Christ Dying, Rising, and Reigning." In 1753, J. Wesley reprinted it in full, and without alteration, in his Select Hymns for the Use of Christians of all Denominations, 1753; and it was also adopted by others. The popular form of the text is that given to it by M. Madan in his Psalms & Hymns, 1760, No. 114, which reads (the italics being Madan's alterations):—

He dies! the Friend of Sinner's dies!
Lo! Salem's daughters weep around!
A solemn darkness veils the skies;
A sudden trembling shakes
the ground;
Come saints and drop a tear or two,
For Him who groan'd beneath your load;
He shed a thousand drops for you,
A thousand drops of richer blood!
Here's love and grief beyond degree,
The Lord of glory dies for men!
But lo! what sudden joys we see!
Jesus, the dead, revives again!
The rising God forsakes the tomb !
(The tomb in vain forbids His rise!)
Cherubic legions guard Him home,
And shout Him welcome to the skies!
Break off your tears ye saints, and tell
How high our great Deliverer reigns!
Sing how He spoil'd the hosts of hell,
And led the monster death in chains!
Say "Live for ever, wond'rous King!
Born to redeem! and strong to save"!
Then ask the monster, " Where's thy sting,
And where's thy Victory, boasting grave."

This text was repeated, with slight variations, by A. M. Toplady, in his Psalms & Hymns, 1776, No. 185, and also by other and later editors, and is, with the change of a word here and there, the received text of the hymn in G. Britain and America.
Miller (Singers & Songs of the Church, 1869), Stevenson (Methodist Hymn Book Notes, 1883), and others state that the foregoing alterations were made by J. Wesley. Wesley, however, did not include the hymn in the Wesleyan Hymn Book in 1780 in any form whatever. It was added, as altered by M. Madan, to the Wesleyan Hymn Book by the Wesleyan Conference in 1800 (i.e. nine years after Wesley's death), and must have been taken from Madan's Psalms & Hymns of 1760, or some other collections which had copied from Madan. Wesley made use of the original text in 1753 (as above); but there is no evidence to show that he ever countenanced Madan's alterations, much less claimed them as his own.
Another altered version of this hymn appeared as, "He dies! the Man of Sorrows dies," in Hall's Mitre, 1836, and is repeated in several modern collections.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



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