HomeVisionStatement Of FaithArticlesPhoto GalleryEditor's NoteLinksContact

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 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.

John 3:16 was the inspirational verse that motivated George Bennard to compose this hymn:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

George was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on February 4, 1873, shortly after the end of the Civil War. His father was a coal miner. His family later moved to Iowa. It was there that George became a Christian. He desired to be trained for ministry in the Salvation Army, but was required instead to support his mother and sisters when his father died.

At the tender age of 16, George worked during the day, and he would do some studies at night. As his sisters grew up, George's responsibilities were reduced. He then moved to Chicago. After his marriage, he and his wife worked for the Salvation Army in Illinois.

The Methodist Episcopal Church later ordained George. His ministry was highly esteemed. For a season of time, he was actively involved in conducting revival services, especially throughout the states of Michigan and New York. One day, after returning to Michigan, he underwent a trying experience. This incident caused him to seek earnestly about the significance of the cross, and about what the Apostle Paul really meant when he spoke of entering into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

As George reflected upon these truths, he became convicted that the cross was more than just a religious symbol. It was the very heart of the gospel. George sought a deeper understanding of the meaning of the cross. He studied and prayed, with his eyes fully focused on the cross.

As he put it: "I was praying for a whole understanding of the cross. I read and studied and prayed. The Christ of the cross became more than a symbol. It was like seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption. While watching this scene in my mind's eye, the theme of the song came to me."

It took several months before this hymn were fully formulated. Bennard went on to work on the song. He sang it at revival meetings, and finally became fully satisfied with it. His friends, Rev. and Mrs. L. O. Boswick, helped to pay for the printing of the song.

Below was George Bennard's account about how he wrote this hymn:

The inspiration came to me one day in 1913, when I was staying in Albion, Michigan. I began to write "The Old Rugged Cross." I composed the melody first. The words that I first wrote were imperfect. The words of the finished hymn were put into my heart in answer to my own need. Shortly thereafter it was introduced at special meetings in Pokagon, Michigan on June 7, 1913. The first occasion where it was heard outside of the church at Pokagon was at the Chicago Evangelistic Institute. There it was introduced before a large convention, and soon it became extremely popular throughout the country.

This hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" has became one of the most favourite and loved sacred songs. Bennard continued his evangelistic ministries for another forty years after writing this hymn. He wrote other hymns, but none surpassed this simply awesome hymn.

On October 9, 1958, at the age of eighty-five, Bennard exchanged his cross for a crown. He spent the last years of his life in Michigan. Near this home still stands a twelve foot high cross with the words:

'The Old Rugged Cross' -
Home of George Bennard, composer of this beloved hymn.

Truly, the centrality of the cross is Christ Himself, God's plan of redemption for lost mankind.

Please view a pictorial presentation of this hymn:
The Old Rugged Cross

Compiled On:
13 June 2005