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Hymn Highlight | The story behind The Old Rugged Cross

Posted by Danielle Stringer on

Title picture featuring the Imperfect Dust wooden hymn sign of The Old Rugged Cross hymn
This hymn was written in 1912 by George Bennard, a man who got his start in ministry through the Salvation Army. An undisclosed trial he faced caused him to reflect on the significance of the cross and what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of “entering into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings" in Philippians 3:10. (By the way this is a wonderful verse that I've come to love and even lettered a sticker after it!)
One day, after long hours of study, prayer and meditation on the word, He said,
 “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. The more I contemplated these truths, the more convinced I became that the cross was far more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the gospel.”.
 Text Quote by George Bennard that authored the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross"
It was during these days of spiritual struggle that Bennard formed the theme for “The Old Rugged Cross.” After it was published, the hymn became one of the most widely published songs throughout America. 
When you read the lyrics, it is easy to see how it resonated with believers. To know Christ is to know what was accomplished for you on the cross. The great exchange of your sin for His righteousness.
The undeserved mercy that was shown to me will cause me to view the cross with wonder and cling to it until the moment I get to view my Savior face to face. 
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
Christ lived the perfect life you could not live, yet suffered and died the death that you deserve in your behalf. Because of His willingness to go to the cross, you are set free. He paid your penalty.
Placing your trust in Him, you exchange your sin for His perfection. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?! 
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
The Old Rugged Cross' lyrics below reflect a life that has been changed by the gospel truth that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
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.
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 someday for a crown.
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.
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 someday to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I'll share.
If you enjoyed learning the history behind this classic hymn, share it with a friend!
You can also shop our hand lettered hymn boards and place them in your home as a reminder of God's goodness and grace!
Text lyrics to The Old Rugged Cross hymn
Another beautiful reminder to cling to the cross is "The Clinging Cross". These are great gifts for someone going through a hard time. You can read more about them in this blog post.

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  • Always one of my favorite hymns

    Sharon on
  • Beautiful. Another interesting backstory on a beautiful old hymn. So glad to see this. I know it takes time to research origins & then to blog/post about it. (as if you aren’t busy enough already!). I add my sincere thanks & appreciation to you, along with countless others ❤️

    Tonia on

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