Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

April 14
Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, 1823–1895
Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:16)
The full understanding of the depth of suffering that our Savior endured at Calvary for our redemption is difficult to grasp. When Mrs. Cecil Alexander, one of England’s finest hymn writers, was attempting to explain to her Sunday school class the meaning of the phrase from the Apostles’ Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried,” she felt inadequate. She had always believed that one of the most effective ways to teach sound spiritual truths to children is through the use of appropriate hymns. She decided, therefore, to put the details of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross into a simply worded but appealing song that could be easily understood by the children in her class. Although the hymn with its direct style of wording and clearly expressed thoughts was originally intended for youth, it had an immediate appeal to adults as well. After the lilting melody was composed for the text in 1878 by George C. Stebbins, the hymn became widely used in the Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns, as it has been in church services since then.
Friends of Mrs. Alexander said that her life was even more beautiful than her writing. After her marriage to William Alexander, archbishop and primate of the Anglican church for all of Ireland, she engaged herself in parish duties and charity work. Her husband said of her, “From one poor home to another she went. Christ was ever with her, and all felt her influence.” Mrs. Alexander had been active before her marriage in the Sunday school movement, and her love of children and interest in their spiritual instruction never diminished. Almost all of the 400 poems and hymns that she wrote were prompted by this concern.
Adults as well as children have loved this particular hymn, written by a devoted woman who had a sincere desire to help others to truly appreciate the extent of Christ’s agony on the cross and the magnitude of His love.
There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains He had to bear; but we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiv’n. He died to make us good, that we might go at last to heav’n, saved by His precious blood.
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gate of heav’n and let us in.
Chorus: O dearly, dearly has He loved! And we must love Him too, and trust in His redeeming blood, and try His works to do.

For Today: John 19; Romans 5:6–11; Ephesians 1:7, 8; Titus 2:13, 14

Express your gratitude for Christ’s “redeeming blood.” Let the truth of His great love motivate you to “try His works to do.”

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