The Old Rugged Cross is a hymn that I often get requests to use during Lent. While it does not appear in our current hymnal it is still a great hymn and worthwhile to print in the bulletin for our use on a Sunday morning. Many people have fond memories of singing this beautiful hymn as a child.
George Bennard, author of The Old Rugged Cross, was born in Youngstown, Ohio, shortly after the end of the Civil War. Shortly after his father died and he was left to care for his sisters and mother, Bennard came to Christ through the ministry of the Salvation Army. Eventually Bennard moved to Chicago and began his ministry with the Methodist Episcopal church as a traveling evangelist.
On one occasion, after a difficult season of ministry, Bennard was searching for a better understanding of the power of the cross of Christ. He later said, “I was praying for a full understanding of the Cross. I read and studied and prayed. The Christ of the cross became more than a symbol. It was like seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form, and act out the meaning of redemption. While watching this scene with my mind’s eye, the theme of the song came to me.”
It took several months for the words to formulate in his mind. As he preached through the Midwest, Bennard would carry the words with him, working on them, and sometimes singing them in his meetings.
With his hymn finished, he sang it for two friends, Rev. and Mrs. L. O. Boswick. The Boswicks were so moved that they helped pay the fees to have it printed. It soon appeared in hymnals across the country.
I hope you find comfort in the words of George Bennard this Lenten season.
Are there any hymns you remember singing as a child that aren’t in our current hymnal? Let me know and we might be able to sing them still.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Shoop, Director of Music Ministries
The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suff’ring and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.
Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world,
has a wondrous attraction for me;
for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above,
to bear it to dark Calvary. Refrain
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
a wondrous beauty I see;
for ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
to pardon and sanctify me. Refrain
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Christ will call me some day to my home far away,
where his glory forever I’ll share. Refrain