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.
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.
In that 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.
To that 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.
Written by George Bennard in the early 1900′s, this is one of my favorite songs about the Cross. It’s melody is captivating and it’s lyrics will stay with you all day. It is a great song to me because it really provides a personal and descriptive picture of the Cross. Yet, it also provides excellent descriptions of the “extremes” found in the Cross. For example, here are some of the extremely negative words you find in this song:
“Old, rugged, suffering, shame, sinners, slain, despised, dark, stained, died, and reproach” – You see the Cross was a place of all these things. It was a dark place. It was a place meant for criminals and for sinners. The Bible says in Galatians 3:13 “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” It was an accursed place. The Cross was a place of death and tragedy and pain and suffering, yet in this miserable place, God chose to redeem the world. He took that which was a place meant for criminals, and He offered His only Son as a sacrifice in this place of suffering and shame. I Corinthians 1:18 says “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The same Cross is both foolishness to some, and the power of God unto salvation to others.
But we cannot dwell on just the negative words surrounding the Cross in this song, because there are so many more greater blessings that come from the Cross. This song uses words like “love, dearest, best, cherish, crown, wondrous beauty, pardon, sanctify and glory” to describe those blessings. One who has been forgiven of sins can look at the Cross and see beauty and love. One who has been given eternal life can truly cherish the Cross. The extremes of this song don’t fight against each other, but they go hand in hand. You see, you can’t have the glory and the crown without the shame and suffering. You can’t see the greatest example of love without God’s only Son being slain on the Cross. From an old, rugged Cross, we become a new creation in Christ.
In some Christians circles today, we have forgotten great hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross.” I think sometimes we would prefer to sing about a “new, shiny Cross.” Maybe a Cross that is a little less bloody and gory. Maybe one where Jesus only has a few wounds on His body, and the crown of thorns are really fashioned in a picturesque manner, not one that is crushed onto His head. That, however, is not the kind of Cross Jesus died on. The Cross was brutal. It was awful. It was in many ways unbearable. But the brutality and the awfulness of the Cross should remind us of how ugly and black our sins were. It should remind us that God requires punishment for sin. The brutal punishment fit the awful crime. He bore the sins of the whole world on a Cross that was dark, despised, old and rugged. Yet today, we can cherish that Cross and we can be true to it by living lives worthy of the One who died for us on those Cross 2,000 years ago. I hope today as you remember the Old, Rugged Cross that you will remember all of the negative things about it, yet be grateful and thankful for the positives that we received because of it.