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A Hymn History
“At the Cross”
By Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
 
“If God has no more service for me to do through grace, I am ready; it is a great mercy to me that I have no manner of fear or dread of death.  I could, if God pleases, lay my head back and die without alarm this afternoon or night.  My chief supports are from my view of eternal things, and my sins are pardoned through the blood of Jesus Christ.”
 
Those are the words of a man who holds one of the highest positions among hymn writers.
 
Isaac Watts was born on July 17, 1674, at Southampton, England, into the home of “nonconformists,” in the days when Dissenters and Independents were persecuted by the Church of England.  Fortunately, this intolerance lasted only a short while after his birth.  His father, twice jailed during the persecution, afterward prospered in his business and was able to give his son the best in education.
 
Isaac entered the ministry and preached his first sermon at the age of twenty-four.
 
His utter lack of what is commonly known as handsomeness was probably why he remained unmarried.  Yet I’m sure this frail soul had learned the truth of the verse which begins this meditation.
 
He wrote many scholarly papers that were used in several institutions of higher learning, but one of the most memorable offerings that came from his pen was the simple hymn, “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed?”
 
Fanny Crosby testified that this song helped her find the Saviour when “believing” came most difficult.  Countless other individuals have been blessed and helped by this masterful composition.
 
                Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?
                And did my Sovereign die?
                Would He devote that sacred head
                For such a worm as I?
 
                Was it for crimes that I have done
                He groaned upon the tree?
                Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
                And love beyond degree!
 
                But drops of grief can ne’er repay
                The debt of love I owe;
                Here, Lord, I give myself away
                ‘Tis all that I can do.