Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

April 15
John Bowring, 1792–1872
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
The cross has been the most significant symbol of the Christian faith throughout church history. It is said that as many as 400 different forms or designs of it have been used—among them the usual Latin Cross, the Greek Cross, the Budded Cross. Regardless of design, the symbol of the cross should always remind us of the price that was paid by the eternal God for man’s redemption. “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” is generally considered one of the finest hymns on this subject. It was written by John Bowring, one of the most remarkable men of his day as well as one of the greatest linguists who ever lived. It is said that he could converse in over 100 different languages before his death.
Some writers claim that John Bowring had visited Macao, on the South Chinese Coast, and was much impressed by the sight of a bronze cross towering on the summit of the massive wall of what had formerly been a great cathedral. This cathedral, originally built by the early Portuguese colonists, overlooked the harbor and had been destroyed by a typhoon. Only one wall, which was topped by the huge metal cross, remained. This scene is said to have so impressed Bowring that it eventually served as the inspiration for this hymn text.
The writing of the tune for this hymn is also most interesting. It was composed 24 years after Bowring’s text by an American organist and choir leader of the Central Baptist Church of Norwich, Connecticut. The composer, Ithamar Conkey, was sorely disappointed at one Sunday morning service when only one choir member appeared, a faithful soprano by the name of Mrs. Beriah Rathbun. Before the evening service Conkey composed a new tune for this text and named it after his one faithful choir member.
The preaching of the cross may be a foolish message to many “but unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV).
In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time; all the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’er take me, hopes deceive and fears annoy, never shall the cross forsake me: Lo! it glows with peace and joy.
When the sun of bliss is beaming light and love upon my way, from the cross the radiance streaming adds more luster to the day.
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified; peace is there that knows no measure, joys that thru all time abide.

For Today: John 19; Romans 5:6–11; 1 Corinthians 1:17–19; Ephesians 2:16

Determine to allow the glory of Christ’s cross to be evident in all that you do. Sing this musical testimony as you go realizing that—

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