Written in Melrose, Scotland, by the author of the immortal poem, ”Immanuel's Land,” this hymn was sent to me by a minister in Dublin; and in the letter conveying the verses he remarked:” It is said of you that you sing the Gospel, and I am sure that if you will sing the enclosed there will be no question as to the truth of that assertion. ”I then wrote the music and sang it in one of Mr. Moody's meetings, where it was blessed to the saving of two persons the first time it was sung, according to their own testimony.
A young officer in the British army turned away in horror from the doctrine of this hymn. His pride revolted, his self-righteousness rose in rebellion, and he said: ”He would be a coward indeed who would go to heaven at the cost of another! ”As the years rolled away this man rose to distinction and high rank in the army, and he also learned wisdom. In his last hours, as he lay on his deathbed, he repeatedly begged those near him to sing ”O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head; ”calling it,” My hymn, my hymn!”
A gunner of the royal artillery was attending the Old Soldiers' Home in Woolwich during the spring of 1886. The chief attraction to him at first was the night-school. From this he was eventually led to join the Bible-class and attend the Sunday evening service in the Hall. Seeing that he looked very unhappy and that he lingered after the meeting, one night, a worker asked him if anything was troubling him. The tears came to his eyes at once, and he said: ”I want to be a Christian, but I am afraid that I am too bad. ”He then told how on the previous Sunday evening, when this hymn was sung, he was so overpowered by the thought of what the Lord had endured for our sins that after the first verse he could not sing. The solemn words were fixed in his memory, and had troubled him all the week, until he came to the great Burden-bearer.