This is part of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.
These sober lyrics, set to a somber tune, make for an ideal Lenten hymn. The opening line draws from Isaiah 53:4 and its description of the Messianic Suffering Servant: “We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” In verse two, we are forced to consider the depth of Christ’s passion, his groaning, his betrayal, his insults, and his unmatched grief. The deepest stroke that pierced him, however, was the stroke that divine justice gave.
Sometimes we hear the cross described as a symbol of how precious we were to God. This is true, so long as we understand that we were not some diamond in the rough that irresistibly drew God to us. The cross certainly shows us the depth of God’s love, but is a love wholly undeserved. For the cross, verse three reminds us, displays the true nature of sin and human guilt. Verse four elegantly summarizes the hope of the gospel: “Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt! None shall ever be confounded who on him their hope have built.”
Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) wrote more than 750 hymns, including this one in 1804. Kelly planned to be a lawyer but after his conversion the Irishman decided to enter the ministry. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1792, but later became a “dissenting” minister.
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he!
‘Tis the long expected Prophet, David’s son, yet David’s Lord;
by his Son God now has spoken: ’tis the true and faithful Word.
Tell me ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distress;
many hands were raised to wound him, none would interpose to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.
Ye who think of sin by lightly nor suppose the evil great
here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, his the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded who on him their hope have built.