"At the Cross", also known by its first line "Alas, and did my Savior bleed", is a Christian hymn written by Issac Watts in the 18th century that harkens to the atonement of our sins by Christ on the cross at Calvary. Read the lyrics of this popular hymn and the background story of Watts. Also, watch amazing performances of this powerful tune in the collection below.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood.
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.
Words: Isaac Watts (1707)
The Story Behind At The Cross (Alas, and did my Savior bleed)
Isaac Watts, born July 17, 1674, and died November 25, 1748, was an English Christian minister of the Congregational church, hymn writer, theologian, and logician. He was a productive and popular hymn writer and is credited with roughly 750 hymns. He is recognized as the "Godfather of English Hymnody"; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.
Watts led a change in hymnal style by including new poetry for "original songs of Christian experience" to be used in worship. The older tradition was based on the poetry of the Bible: the Psalms.
Watts also introduced a new way of using the Psalms in verse for church services, suggesting that they be adapted for hymns with a specifically Christian perspective. As Watts put it in the title of his 1719 metrical Psalter, the Psalms should be "imitated in the language of the New Testament."