"The Old Rugged Cross" ~ Jim French (March 25, 2018)
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The Old Rugged Cross
Words & Music: George Bennard, 1913
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.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Verse # 3 not sung:
In the 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 the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Yes exchange it someday.
I'll exchange it someday ... for a crown.
"The Old Rugged Cross" is a popular hymn written in 1912 by evangelist and song-leader George Bennard (1873-1958).
George Bennard was born in Youngstown, Ohio, but his family moved to Iowa, where he accepted Christ as his savior at a revival meeting sponsored by the Salvation Army. Some years later, Bennard moved to Chicago, married, and began an evangelistic ministry with the Salvation Army. Later still, he was ordained as an evangelist by the Methodist Church, and traveled through the northern states carrying out his ministry.
In December, 1912, he was struggling with some sort of personal problem, which led him to reflect on Christ's suffering on the cross. He later wrote in his memoirs, "I seemed to have a vision . . . I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable... 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." He wrote the song over a month as he traveled to revival meetings. Bennard had already composed a tune, and his reflections on the cross led him to pen words to go with the tune. The melody came easily, but he labored over the words in the four verses and refrain. The hymn, published in 1913, was immediately successful.
Bennard retired to Reed City, Michigan, and the town maintains a museum dedicated to his life and ministry. After he died, the local Chamber of Commerce erected a cross near his home. A memorial has also been created in Youngstown at Lake Park Cemetery.