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Satisfaction of God’s Wrath in Christian Hymnody

There has been quite a lot of noise in the blogosphere lately over a decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to reject Getty and Townend’s hymn, “In Christ Alone,” since they object to the language of penal substitutionary atonement and have failed to secure permission to change the line, “the wrath of God was satisfied.”


This issue raises a lot of important topics for discussion including valid views of the atonement, whether hymn lyrics should be changed, and copyrighting hymns. I don’t intend to add to this discussion at the moment (I appreciate comments on this matter by Timothy George and Russell Moore), but I thought I’d do a quick survey of other hymns in the Christian tradition that highlight the necessity of Christ’s bloody sacrifice to appease the just wrath of God on our behalf. Here are just a few (I’ve included the pertinent passages):

Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning” by Thom­as of Ce­la­no, 13th Cen­tu­ry (Di­es Ir­ae); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Will­iam J. Irons, 1848.

Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution
Ere that day of retribution!
Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!

To Avert Men From Men God’s Wrath,” attributed to John Huss, 1558

To avert from men God’s wrath,
Jesus suffered in our stead;
By an ignominious death
He a full atonement made;
And by His most precious blood
Brought us, sinners, nigh to God.

Ah, Holy Jesus” by Johann Heerman, 1630

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
God interceded.

Alas, and did my Savior bleed” by Isaac Watts (1707)

Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood

“Amidst Thy Wrath, Remember Love” by Isaac Watts, 1719

Amidst Thy wrath remember love,
Restore Thy servant, Lord;
Nor let a Father’s chastening prove
Like an avenger’s sword.

Wherewith, O Lord, Shall I Draw Near?” by Charles Wesley, 1740

Guilty I stand before Thy face;
On me I feel Thy wrath abide:
’Tis just the sentence should take place,
’Tis just—but O, Thy Son hath died!

For me I now believe He died!
He made my every crime His own,
Fully for me He satisfied:
Father, well pleased behold Thy Son.

‘Tis Finished, the Messiah Dies” by Charles Wesley, 1749

Accomplished is the sacrifice,
The great redeeming work is done;
‘Tis finished! All the debt is paid;
Justice divine is satisfied;
The grand and full atonement made;
God for a guilty world hath died.

All Ye That Pass By” by Charles Wesley

For what you have done
His blood must atone:
The Father hath punished for
you his dear Son,
The Lord, in the day
Of his anger, did lay
Your sins on the Lamb, and he bore them away.

Enslaved by Sin and Bound in Chains” by Anne Steele (1760)

Jesus, the Lord, the mighty God,
An all sufficient ransom paid.
O matchless price! His precious blood
For vile, rebellious traitors shed.

Jesus the sacrifice became
To rescue guilty souls from hell;
The spotless, bleeding, dying Lamb
Beneath avenging Justice fell.

Before the Throne of God Above” by Charitie Bancroft, 1865

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

By Christ Redeemed, in Christ Restored” by George Raw­son ( 1857)

The streams of His dread agony,
His life blood shed for us, we see;

Man of Sorrows, What a Name” by P. P. Bliss, 1875

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

What this shows is that the language of penal substitutionary atonement present in “In Christ Alone” stands squarely within our rich tradition of hymnody.

What other hymns can you think of that contain language of penal substitution?

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.