NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD OF JESUS written in 1876
Robert Lowry (1826-1899), who wrote this hymn, wore many hats. He was a professor of literature at Bucknell University for a while. He served as pastor of Baptist churches in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. He liked to write music for gospel songs, and he worked with Fanny Crosby and many others (writing music to many of the hymns you know). Occasionally, he wrote words to hymns, also; such as with the Easter hymn, “Low in the Grave He Lay”, and this hymn.
There’s a simplicity about this tune. It only has a 5-note range, the basses only have 2 notes to sing, and the guitar players have just 2 basic chords. But Robert was okay with it being simple… because salvation is simple. We tend to try to complicate salvation… adding more chords and harmonies to it… but salvation is really “nothing but the blood of Jesus”.
This hymn became a popular hymn to many denominations; it was included in almost every hymnal in the years since it was written (although some congregations disliked the constant reference to “blood”). This hymn has all the earmarks of a classic gospel song. It focuses on a single theme and hammers it home. The singer will repeat the text, “nothing but the blood of Jesus” 12 times if he/she sings all 6 verses. The refrain is brief and reinforces the theme. The language is direct and obvious, with all 1- or 2-syllable words.
Hebrews 9:22 appeared originally above the hymn in the original publication by Lowry and William H. Doane entitled Gospel Music (1876). This hymn adapts a call-response pattern in the verses that immediately engages the singer. This call-response pattern, along with the sturdy, almost martial rhythms of the music, gives the effect of cheerleading.
Read this hymn, and – today – make sure your eternal security is resting only in the blood of Jesus shed for you from the Cross.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow;
no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
For my pardon, this I see, nothing but the blood of Jesus;
for my cleansing this my plea, nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Refrain)
Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus;
naught of good that I have done, nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Refrain)
This is all my hope and peace, nothing but the blood of Jesus;
this is all my righteousness, nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Refrain)
Now by this I’ll overcome – nothing but the blood of Jesus;
now by this I’ll reach my home – nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Refrain)
Glory! Glory! This I sing – nothing but the blood of Jesus,
all my praise for this I bring – nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Refrain)