How Could We Have Forgotten This Hymn?

One of the most beautiful hymns ever written is “O Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head.” I heard part of the lyrics for the first time a few years ago in an Al Martin sermon, and then sought high and low for it until I found it at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocwbubth.htm. It is not in many hymanls (including the green, blue, and red Trinity hymnals)–I searched about twenty and found it only in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal Grace and Glory. When you read the words you will understand why it is such a precious hymn. Hopefully someone will have the insight to add it to some of our more well known hymnals in the near future.

O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,
Didst bear all ill for me.
A Victim led,
Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.

Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
‘Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup,
love drank it up;
Now blessing’s draught for me.

Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.

The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.

Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke against Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou art ris’n, my hands are all untied,
And now Thou livest in me.
When purified, made white and tried,
Thy glory then for me!

The Hymn was written by Anne Cousins. Cousins was the daughter of a doctor. “Anne mar­ried Will­iam Cou­sin, pas­tor of the Free Church of Mel­rose, Scot­land. She con­trib­ut­ed ma­ny po­ems to var­i­ous per­i­od­ic­als; seven hymns to The Serv­ice of Praise (Edin­burgh, Scot­land, 1865); and one to Psalms and Hymns for Di­vine Wor­ship, 1866, the hym­nal of the En­glish Pres­by­ter­i­an Church. Four of her hymns were in­cluded in the Scot­tish Pres­by­ter­i­an Hym­nal, 1876.” Her contribution to hymnody includes writing the words to “The Sands of Time are Sinking,” a hymn inspried by Samulee Rutherford’s poem “Immanuel’s Land.”

There is a very touching story associated with “O Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head:”

“A young of­fi­cer in the Brit­ish ar­my turned away in hor­ror from the doc­trine of this hymn. His pride re­volt­ed, his self-right­eous­ness rose in re­bel­lion, and he said: “He would be a cow­ard in­deed who would go to hea­ven at the cost of ano­ther!” As the years rolled away this man rose to dis­tinct­ion and high rank in the ar­my, and he al­so learned wis­dom. In his last hours, as he lay on his death­bed, he re­peat­edl­y begged those near him to sing “Christ, what bur­dens bowed Thy head,” call­ing it, “My hymn, my hymn!”

A gun­ner of the roy­al ar­til­lery was at­tend­ing the Old Sol­dier’s Home in Wool­wich dur­ing the spring of 1886. The chief at­tract­ion to him at first was the night-school. From this he was event­u­al­ly led to join the Bi­ble-class and at­tend the Sun­day even­ing ser­vice in the Hall. See­ing that he looked ve­ry un­hap­py and that he lin­gered af­ter the meet­ing, one night, a work­er asked him if an­y­thing was troub­ling him. The tears came to his eyes at once, and he said: “I want to be a Christ­ian, but I am afraid that I am too bad. He then told how on the pre­vi­ous Sun­day even­ing, when this hymn was sung, he was so over­pow­ered by the thought of what the Lord had en­dured for our sins that af­ter the first verse he could not sing. The sol­emn words were fixed in his mem­o­ry, and had trou­bled him all the week, un­til he came to the great Bur­den-bear­er.”

3 Responses

  1. Hey Nic,

    I noticed that this hymn goes well with the meter which means that you could put it to the tune Brother James’ Air (#86 in the red Trinity) – I think I might print this up for my congregation and have us learn it. Last year I introduced them to a great forgotten hymn from Newton on Isaiah 54. It is awesome to find gems like these.

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