Behind the Hymn: Man of Sorrows
We are in the Lent season and preparing for Easter Sunday. However, before we can reach the light we must pass through the darkness.
Philip P. Bliss wrote both the text and tune to the haunting hymn, Man of Sorrows. The hymn is based on Isaiah 52-53. In these scripture passages, the prophet Isaiah, depicts the suffering servant.
Man of Sorrows was first published in The International Lessons Monthly of 1875 with the title “Redemption.”
The hymn is also sometimes referred to as Hallelujah! What a Savior and Gethsemane.
Philip Bliss, who also wrote O How I Love Jesus and It Is Well With My Soul, wrote this hymn near the end of his life.
Ira Sankey wrote in his memoirs, “Written…shortly before his death, 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!””