Written by Isaac Watts in 1707, "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed" is a remarkable hymn describing not only the blessed redemption of sinners by the Lord on his cross, but also the reality that even in our deepest grieving of the Lord's death, we cannot muster a sacrifice sufficient for our righteousness. In the face of this bleak circumstance, Watts straightforwardly says in the final stanza, "But drops of tears can ne'er repay the debt of love I owe. Here, Lord, I give myself away, 'tis all that I can do."
The renowned 19th century hymn writer Fanny Crosby wrote of a formative spiritual experience while listening to this hymn.
[In] the autumn of 1850…revival meetings were being held in the Thirtieth Street Methodist Church [, New York City]. Some of us went down every evening; and, on two occasions, I sought peace at the altar, but did not find the joy I craved, until one evening, November 20, 1850, it seemed to me that the light must indeed come then or never; and so I arose and went to the altar alone. After a prayer was offered, they began to sing the grand old consecration hymn, “Alas, and did my Saviour bleed, And did my Sovereign die?” And when they reached the third line of the fourth [sic] stanza, “Here Lord, I give myself away,” my very soul was flooded with a celestial light. I sprang to my feet, shouting “hallelujah,” and then for the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.Below are the words to the hymn. I have removed the "At the cross" refrain that is commonly sung with this song because 1) it was added nearly 200 years after Watts's original, and 2) I don't think the "happy all the day" line fits the original lyrics very well.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
[originally, For such a worm as I?]
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.