A Great Hymn of the Cross from a Father’s Challenge

My favorite hymn about the Cross of Jesus Christ is “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Particularly striking to me is the imagery created by the line in the third stanza: “See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down.” I love the original tune, but I have also been encouraged by the devotional arrangement by Dr. Gustafson of BJU which can be heard or downloaded here.

An interesting note from Watts’ life is that one Sunday while returning from church, Watts was criticizing the singing of the congregation. His father, rather than agreeing with him, or even just correcting him, challenged Watts and said “Why don’t you give us something better, young man!” It was that day Watts began writing hymns, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” being one of the best.

It was originally titled “Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ.” When you read the text, this title makes sense. As we contemplate the great sacrifice of our Savior, how can we not renew our committment to denounce our pride, see earthly possessions for the vain things they are, and be renewed in our love for the Savior? 

When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died,My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. 

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ, my God;All the vain things that charm me most—I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down; Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? 

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small:Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all!


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