THE OLD RUGGED CROSS
Words and Music by George Bennard, 1873–1958
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
The author and composer of this beloved hymn, George Bennard, began his Christian ministry in the ranks of the Salvation Army. Eight years later he was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal church, where his devoted ministry as an evangelist was highly esteemed for many years.
One time, after returning to his home in Albion, Michigan, Bennard passed through a particularly trying experience, one that caused him to reflect seriously about the significance of the cross and what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of entering into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10). George Bennard began to spend long hours in study, prayer, and meditation until one day he could say:
I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption. The more I contemplated these truths the more convinced I became that the cross was far more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the gospel.
During these days of spiritual struggle, the theme for “The Old Rugged Cross” began to formulate itself in Bennard’s mind. But an inner voice seemed to keep telling him to “wait.” Finally, however, after returning to Michigan, he began to concentrate anew on his project. This time the words and melody began to flow easily from his heart. Shortly thereafter, Bennard sent a manuscript copy to Charles Gabriel, one of the leading gospel hymn writers of that time. Gabriel’s prophetic words, “You will certainly hear from this song, Mr. Bennard,” were soon realized as the hymn became one of the most widely published songs, either sacred or secular, throughout America.
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.
O 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.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear; then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, where His glory forever I’ll share.
Chorus: 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.
For Today: Isaiah 53:3–12; John 19:17–25; Romans 5:6–11; Hebrews 9:27, 28
Ponder the significance of Christ’s cross in your salvation. Sing this musical testimony—