“Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus”


“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that Jesus was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief is “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus.”  The text is attributed to John Bakewell, who was born in 1721 at Brailsford in Derbyshire, England.  At the age of eighteen, he read Boston’s Fourfold State, which turned his heart to God.  In 1744, the year of the first Methodist Conference, he became an ardent evangelist who was associated with the Wesleyan movement during the mid 1700s.   Shortly afterwards he moved to London, where he met John and Charles Wesley, Augustus Toplady, J. Fletcher, and other notables of the period. After conducting the Greenwich Royal Park Academy for a number of years, Bakewell resigned in favor of his son-in-law, James Egan, and began spending much of his time preaching for the Methodists. 

     This hymn is dated around 1757.  Bakewell is credited with a couple of other hymns, “Jesus, Hail, Enthroned in Glory,” and “Paschal Lamb, by God Appointed,” which are actually just centos from “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus.”  He passed away on Mar. 18, 1819, at Lewisham in Kent, England.  Something of the character of Bakewell is indicated by the tribute on his tombstone in a grave site located in the same area where John Wesley is buried in London, England.  “Sacred to the memory of John Bakewell, who departed this life March 18, 1819, age 98.  He adorned the doctrine of God, our Savior, and preached his glorious gospel about 70 years.  ‘The memory of the just is blessed.’”  It is believed that the hymn was probably enlarged by Martan Madan (1725-1790).  This version was published in Madan’s 1760 Collection of Psalms and Hymns Extracted from Various Authors.  The hymn was further altered by Augustus Montague Toplady in 1776. 

     Several tunes have been used with the hymn.   One (In Babilone) is a traditional Dutch Melody that appeared in Oude en nieuwe Hollantse Boerenlities en Contradanseu (Old and New Dutch Peasant Songs and Country Dances) around 1710 and was arranged by Julius Röntgen in 1906.  Another tune (Autumn) was composed Francois H. Barthélémon in 1785; it is often associated with Robert Robinson’s “Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee” and in some of our books was used with a couple of stanzas from Henry F. Lyte’s “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” beginning, “Know, My Soul, Thy Full Salvation.”  Still another (Hyfrydol) was composed by Rowland H. Prichard in 1830 and is most often used with William C. Dix’s “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.”  Yet another (St. Hilda Barnby) was composed by Joseph Barnby in 1861.  Many older books use a tune (Pleading Savior) with “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus” that is an anonymous melody taken from the Christian Lyre compiled by Joshua Leavitt in 1830.

     The song emphasizes the suffering that Jesus went through in His death to save us from sin.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that Jesus suffered even though He came to be a King

“Hail, Thou once despisèd Jesus! Hail, Thou Galilean King!

Thou didst suffer to release us; Thou didst free salvation bring.

Hail, Thou agonizing Savior, Bearer of our sin and shame!

By Thy merits we find favor; Life is given through Thy Name.”

 A. Jesus came to be a King: Jn. 18:36-37

 B. Yet He suffered to release us and bring salvation: 1 Pet. 3:18

 C. Thus He is was an agonizing Savior who bore our sin on the tree: 1 Pet. 2:24; some modern hymnal editors apparently wanted to downplay the “agonizing” of Jesus; one reads, “Hail, Thou universal Savior, who hast borne our sin and shame!” and another, “Hail, Thou patient Friend and Savior,” but that seems to counteract the entire idea of the song!

II. Stanza 2 tells us that Jesus suffered because of His love in order to make atonement for us

“Paschal Lamb, by God appointed, All our sins on Thee were laid;

By almighty Love anointed, Thou hast full atonement made.

All Thy people are forgiven Through the virtue of Thy blood;

Opened is the gate of Heaven, Peace is made ‘twixt man and God.”

 A. Jesus is the Paschal Lamb who was slain for our redemption: 1 Pet. 1:18-21

 B. By His act of love, He made full atonement for us: Rom. 5:11

 C. The result is that we can have forgiveness through His blood: Eph. 1:7; I don’t know whether some books have the original and others use the alterations by Madan and Toplady, or whether other editors have made further alterations for whatever reasons, but some books have the following last four lines for stanza 2:

“Every sin may be forgiven Through the virtue of Thy blood;

Opened is the gate of Heaven, Reconciled are we with God.”

III. Stanza 3 tells us that after Jesus suffered He was enthroned in glory

“Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory, There forever to abide;

All the heavenly hosts adore Thee, Seated at Thy Father’s side.

There for sinners Thou art pleading; There Thou dost our place prepare;

Ever for us interceding Till in glory we appear.”

 A. Because of His willingness to suffer for us, Jesus is now enthroned in glory at the Father’s right hand: Heb. 8:1

 B. All the heavenly hosts adore Him as the Lamb who was slain: Rev. 5:11-12

 C. There He ever lives to make intercession for us: Heb. 7:25.  Again, there is a variation in the last two lines: “Thou for saints art interceding Till in glory they appear” (maybe an editor didn’t want some pour unsaved soul who might sing the song to use the first person plural “we” that would include him.)

IV. Stanza 4 tells us that because Jesus suffered for us He is worthy of worships

“Worship, honor, power and blessing Thou art (Christ is) worthy to receive;

Loudest praises, without ceasing, Meet (right) it is for us to give.

Help, ye bright angelic spirits, Bring your sweetest, noblest lays;

Help to sing our Savior’s (of Jesus’) merits, Help to chant Emmanuel’s praise!”

 A. As a result of His willingness to suffer for us, Jesus the Lamb is worthy to receive blessing and honor and glory and power: Rev. 5:13-14

 B. Thus we join with the bright angelic spirits to bring our songs to Christ: Col. 3:16

 C. We praise Him because He is Emmanuel, God with us: Matt. 1:23; some of the alterations in this stanza are noted in the text, and some books have Immanuel instead of Emmanuel, but that is a very minor difference.

     CONCL.:  In many places it has been my experience that song leaders tend to fall into the habit of selecting from a rather small number of hymns to prepare the congregation’s mind for the partaking of the Lord’s supper.  Unfortunately, some hymnbooks have a rather limited number of songs suitable for such a purpose.  Occasionally, this results in a leader looking for other songs to use before the Lord’s supper and choosing some which have nothing to do with the purpose of the communion (i.e., “Break Thou the Bread of Life”).  The subject of this hymn study would be an excellent addition to songs for such use because it focuses on the death of Christ with their results, which is what we are to remember while eating the bread and drinking the cup, in effect, saying as we do so, “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus.”


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