phillip-bliss.jpg This week our addition to the series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth is a hymn written by Phil­ip Paul Bliss in 1875. Bliss was born Ju­ly 9, 1838 in Clear­field Coun­ty, Penn­syl­van­ia.

On the evening of December 28, 1876, Bliss said to his au­di­ence, “I may not pass this way again”; then he sang a so­lo titled “I’m Go­ing Home To­mor­row.” The next day, Bliss and his wife perished in a tra­gic train wreck caused by a bridge col­apse at Ash­ta­bu­la, Ohio. He actually sur­vived the in­i­tial im­pact, but went back in­to the flames in an un­suc­ces­sful at­tempt to res­cue his wife. The re­mains re­trieved from the Ash­ta­bu­la dis­as­ter were placed in a com­mon grave marked by a cen­o­taph in the Ash­ta­bu­la Cem­e­te­ry. On Ju­ly 17, 1877, a cen­o­taph in mem­o­ry of the Bliss­es was erect­ed in the cem­e­tery at Rome, Penn­syl­vania.

Of this week’s hymn selection, Ira Sankey recalls,

this was the last hymn I heard Mr. Bliss sing. It was at a meet­ing in Far­well Hall in Chi­ca­go, con­duct­ed by Hen­ry Moore­house. A few weeks be­fore his death Mr. Bliss vis­it­ed the State pri­son at Jack­son, Mi­chi­gan, where, af­ter a ve­ry touch­ing ad­dress on “The Man of Sor­rows,” he sang this hymn with great ef­fect. Ma­ny of the pri­son­ers dat­ed their con­ver­sion from that day.

When Mr. Moo­dy and I were in Par­is, hold­ing meet­ings in the old church which Na­pol­e­on had grant­ed to the Evan­gel­ic­als, I fre­quent­ly sang this hymn as a so­lo, ask­ing the con­gre­ga­tion to join in the sin­gle phrase, “Hal­le­lu­jah, what a Sav­iour,” which they did with splen­did ef­fect. It is said that the word “Hal­le­lu­jah” is the same in all lan­guag­es. It seems as though God had pre­pared it for the great ju­bi­lee of hea­ven, when all his child­ren shall have been ga­thered home to sing “Hal­le­lu­jah to the Lamb!”

My own recollections of the hymn date back to my childhood, of course. There are few hymns that reach the heights of the single line, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” as each verse outlines an additional reason for us to rejoice in his name. And the last line repeated in each verse holds a wondrous sustain in the the right chapel.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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