HYMN 171 The Old Rugged Cross
Norwegian: Til det gamle, ærverdige kors or Det eldgammel kors
1 Corinthians 1:18
Text: George Bennard (1873-1958) Tune: George Bennard (1873-1958)
1. 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:
R/So I'll cherish the old rugged cross Till my trophies at last I lay down And I will cling to the old rugged cross And exchange it some day for a crown.
2. Oh, 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
3. In the old rugged Cross, stain'd with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.
4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, Its shame and reproach gladly bear, Then he'll call me someday to my home far away Where his glory forever I'll share:
This is a country western version of 1 Corinthians 1:18—"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
This is the greatest mystery of all. How is that God, the creator of all, all powerful, all knowing, would send his Son into the world to live with us and suffer our rejection and, even as we were scoffing, die to save us, to bring us into full communion with him? It makes no sense at all to our rational minds. It is, as Paul says, a scandal and a stumbling block to those who think about it with the categories of the flesh.
We think that a God should be able to just say, abracadabra, make these sinners whole and forgiven. The reason he can't is because of who God is. God is holy, like a fire. He can’t change his nature. His very being is unable to be next to sin without consuming it. In order for us--sinners--to be close to him, we have to be changed, made holy. The only way that could happen was for Jesus to become human like us, to take on all our sin, in fact, to become sin for us. When he did so on the cross, God forsook him. That is why Jesus cried from the cross his cry of dereliction, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"
Luther said that on the cross Christ overcame sin by becoming sin and dying, thus destroying sin, he also became the death of death—when he was raised from the dead, he took the sting of death away. And now as victor, he covers us with himself, we are one with him, so we are made holy, able to be in the presence of God.
What a miracle: To have a God who so loved us that he gave his only begotten Son to die for us so that we might have everlasting life, John 3:16, the Bible verse Bennard was contemplating as he wrote the hymn. The gospel in a sentence. It is what moved the writer of this ballad to write this song. Someday we will exchange the cross, an emblem of our sin and shame, for a crown. Imagine that!
George Bennard, the writer of this most famous of Gospel songs, grew up in Albia, Iowa. He was an evangelist with the Salvation Army and then the Methodist church. At a revival meeting, some young people had scoffed at his preaching and the idea of the cross. That night he is said to have written the first stanza of the hymn. During a series of meetings some weeks later at the Friends Church in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, he wrote the next stanzas. On the last night of their meetings, he and his colleague, Ed Mieras, sang it as a duet, accompanied by Pearl Torstensen Berg. Its next performance was with a small choir of five where Bennard played the guitar to accompany the group. Charles Gabriel, a well known Gospel musician, helped Bennard with the harmonies. It was published in 1915 and sung at the Billy Sunday revivals. Homer Rodeheaver, Sunday's musician, bought the rights to the song for $50 or $500, no one is quite sure. It was a good economic decision without a doubt! Bennard retired in Reed City, Michigan where there is a museum that tells about his life and work.
LINKS--these are but a few of hundreds!
Johnny Cash and June Carter
Bedehusland Country /Det Eldgammel kors
Kenneth Sivertsen/ Melk og honning
Arvid Pettersen/Det eldgammel kors