Wednesday, 16 January 2013

16th January 1813: Hymn - 'Behold the Saviour of Mankind'

Behold the Savior of mankind
Nailed to the shameful tree!
How vast the love that Him inclined
To bleed and die for thee!

Though far unequal our low praise
To Thy vast sufferings prove,
O Lamb of God, thus all our days,
Thus will we grieve and love.

Hark, how He groans, while nature shakes,
And earth’s strong pillars bend;
The temple’s veil in sunder breaks,
The solid marbles rend.

"’Tis done!" The precious ransom’s paid,
"Receive My soul," He cries!
See where He bows His sacred head!
He bows His head, and dies!

But soon He’ll break death’s envious chain,
And in full glory shine:
O Lamb of God! was ever pain,
Was ever love, like Thine?

Thy loss our ruin did repair;
Death by death is slain;
Thou wilt at length exalt us where
Thou dost in glory reign.

According to both Leeds papers, the Luddite John Walker led his 6 comrades in singing this hymn prior to their execution on Saturday 16th January 1813. The Leeds Intelligencer of 18th January 1813 said that the second group of Luddites hanged that day also sung the hymn.

The words to the hymn were written in 1700 by Samuel Wesley senior, the father of John & Charles Wesley, who went on to found the Methodist Church. The tune most closely associated with this hymn is 'New Britain' (the tune that accompanies 'Amazing Grace'), but this was first published in 1829, and is not contemporaneous with 1813. Another tune associated with the hymn is 'Martyrdom', written in 1800 by Hugh Wilson, and it seems most likely that this may have been the tune the Luddites sung the words to.

Examples of Methodist songbooks on the internet, the oldest being published in 1816, show a version of the hymn omitting the second and sixth verse.

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