Behind the Hymn: Nothing but the blood
Robert Lowry was a composer more remembered for the more than 500 hymns he wrote
instead of the sermons he preferred to give. He once stated: “Music, with me has been a side issue… I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative audience than write a hymn. I have always looked upon myself as a preacher and felt a sort of depreciation when I began to be known more as a composer.” However, it is as a hymn writer that he remains renowned.
Lowry wrote Nothing but the Blood with William Doane. Both men came to know Christ as teenagers.
The hymn adapts a call-response pattern in the stanzas that engages the singer. Each stanza begins with a question or statement, which is followed by the response Nothing but the blood of Jesus. A question/statement and response is then repeated before the singer reaches the chorus.
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus has six verses that have been written. However, the majority of hymnals only publish the first four verses.
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus was first introduced at a camp meeting in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Ocean Grove was established in 1869 as a place of spiritual retreat and revival and a place to escape the summer heat of northeastern cities. Over the years, many famous hymn writers came to Ocean Grove, including Fanny Crosby, William Kirkpatrick, and Eliza Hewitt, as well as Robert Lowry.
The first known publication of the hymn was in 1876. Hebrews 9:22 is attached with the song in hymnals. This verse says “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.”
In the 1950s-1960s, Nothing but the Blood was among the top five hymns sung in churches.
Nothing but the Blood is one of several “blood” songs including There is a Fountain, Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness, His blood can make the foulest clean, Are You Washed in the Blood?, and There Is Power in the Blood.