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—
Osbeck, K. W.
- He is despised and rejected of men: he is a man full of sorrows, and hath experienced of infirmities: we hid as it were our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely, he hath born our infirmities, and carried our sorrows, yet we did judge him as plagued and smitten of God, and humbled. But he was wounded for our transgressions: he was broken for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stipes are we healed. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet did he not open his mouth: he is brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken out from prison, and from judgment: and who shall declare his age? for he was cut out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he plagued. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no wickedness, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet the Lord would break him and make him subject to infirmities: when he shall make his soul of offering for sin, he shall see his seed and shall prolong his days, and the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisified; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I give him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was counted with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and prayed for the trespassers. Isaiah 53:3–12
- And he bare his own cross, and came into a place of dead men’s skulls, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote also a title, and put it on the cross, and it was written, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified, was near to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Then said the high Priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews, but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments (and made four parts, to every soldier a part) and his coat: and the coat was without seam woven from the top throughout. Therefore they said one to another, Let us not divide it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be. This was that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They part my garments among them, and on my coat did cast lots. so the soldiers did these things indeed. Then stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:17–25
- For Christ, when we were yet of no strength, at his time died for the ungodly. Doubtless one will scarce die for a righteous man: but yet for a good man it may be that one dare die. But God setteth out his love towards us, seeing that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justfied by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life, And not only so but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Romans 5:6–11
- And as it is appointed unto men that they shall once die, and after that cometh the judgment: So Christ was once offered to take away the sins of many, and unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Hebrews 9:27-28