Written and researched by TONY LOEFFLER
THE OLD RUGGED CROSS
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering 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.
On that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, a wondrous
attraction to me,
For the dear Lamb of God, left his glory above, to bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous
beauty I see,
For it was on that old cross, Jesus suffered and died, to pardon and sanctify me.
To that old rugged cross, I will ever be true, its shame and reproach
Then he'll call me some day, to my home far away, where his glory forever I'll share.
Written & Composed by George Bennard, 1873-1958
This gospel hymn, a sentimental favourite of Christians and unsaved alike, was written by George Bennard in 1913. It is generally conceded to be the most popular of all 20th century hymns. A coal miner's son, Bennard was born in Youngstown, Ohio. At the age of 15 he worked in the coalmines to support his widowed mother. During a Salvation Army meeting in the town of Lucas, Iowa, he was converted, and later he and his wife became ardent Salvation Army workers. He became a brigade leader in the corps before he left the Salvation Army to become an independent evangelist.
For some time he was busily involved in conducting revival services, especially throughout the states of Michigan and New York. One time, after returning to Michigan, he passed through a trying experience which caused him to reflect seriously about the significance of the cross and what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke about entering into the fellowship of Christ's suffering. As Bennard contemplated these truths, he became convinced that the cross was more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the Gospel.
Bennard began writing the hymn late in the fall of 1912. Homer Rodeheaver, the popular song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday, used this new song immediately and was greatly responsible for its early popularity. Bennard continued his evangelistic ministries for 40 additional years following the writing of this hymn. His last years were spent in Reed City, Michigan, where he was loved and honoured. In 1956 the Reed City Chamber of Commerce erected a wooden cross 12 feet high near his home with an inscription honouring him. On October 9, 1958, at the age of 85, Bennard exchanged his "Cross for a Crown."
© American musicianary Tony Loeffler has recorded the hymns in Cross Rhythms' 'Hims' series. The 'Hims' album is available, with or without spoken historical/biographical readings, from Kingdom Developments, 28 Old Park Road, Peverell, Plymouth, Devon PL3 4PY. Tel: 01752 225623.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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