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?]
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.
The center of the Gospel message is the substitutionary death of Christ. Man in his rebellion has no recourse for sin and cannot escape the sure judgment of God. However, the Gospel gives hope to man because there was one who stood to give him life. Watts describes in the first verse of the song the mystery of Christ choosing to die for a people who are not worth saving. Even in more personal terms, he describes himself as a “worm”, unworthy of God’s love. This is a mystery incomprehensible because the sovereign Lord of the universe “bled” and “died” for the worm who was worth nothing.
Watts recognized that his own sin was the cause of the Lord’s death. It was for his sins, and by extension all mankind’s, that the sinless savior suffered. One must stand at awe of the grace and mercy shown to man because of God’s pity upon creatures who should glorify Him, but choose to live apart from Him. No other display of love is there than that of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
While the love that God shows to his creatures is great, it is emphasized further by Watts saying that the creator died for the creature. Such a “fate” seems unfair, even unjust for the creator. The darkness that covered Christ during His separation from the Father further shows that Christ’s death was more excruciatingly alone and miserable. As the apex of all humiliation, the sinless savior died for the sins of the creature!
At the conclusion of the song, the author calls for the personal giving away of himself as the only thing that he can do. He admits that nothing that he can do can repay the debt that he owes. The man who in all his sinfulness and upon whom the wrath of God rested has been forgiven. Great debt forgiven leaves even a greater debt to be paid! However, the first debt (sin and death) is nothing in comparison to the debt of love owed for a forgiven life.
What grater relief for sin is there than the cleansing that Christ provides? Lord, help me to love you more and more with each passing day. You have shown me love when I hated you and gave me kindness when I was against you. Turn my heart away from the sin for which you gave yourself as a sacrifice. Draw me to your cross, for it is precious to me. Let me never forget!