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Friday, 3 April 2015

The Old Rugged Cross

This beloved hymn is 102 years old.
The words and melody were written and composed by George Bennard.
He was born in Youngstown Ohio in 1873.
George was the youngest of five siblings.
His father owned a tavern and after it burned,
the family moved to Iowa where his father worked in a mine.
His father died at the age of 49 from an accident, and so George,
at the age of 16, went to the mine to work as well to help support the family.
Soon after his father's death,
 George met his Saviour while at a
Salvation Army service.
George would serve as an officer along with his wife in the Salvation Army.
He later became a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
He traveled and ministered most extensively in the states of Michigan and New York.
 On one occasion, after returning home to Michigan,
 he passed through a deeply trying experience,
 which caused him to reflect intensely upon the significance of the cross of Christ
 and what Paul meant when he spoke of entering into the suffering of Christ.
 It was this difficult experience and the conviction,
which resulted in his heart concerning the importance of the cross
that gave birth to the hymn that bears his name.
For some time “The Old Rugged Cross” was in composition in the heart and mind of Rev. Bennard. Only a small portion of the hymn came to mind:
 "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross . . .”
Here the hymn remained until some youths heckled him at one of the revivals he was preaching. After this experience, the rest of the words came quite freely.
The complete version was sung for the first time during a two week
revival meeting at the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon Michigan.
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. 
"I seemed to have a vision . . . I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable,"
he wrote in his memoirs
 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.
Evangelist Billy Sunday, an Iowa native,
popularized the hymn with his nationally broadcast radio show.
By 1939, more than 15 million copies of the hymn had been sold and numerous recordings made.
 Following the writing of “The Old Rugged Cross,”
 Bennard ministered an additional forty years.
 During this period, he wrote additional gospel hymns, numbering more than 350,
including “Have Thy Way, Lord,”[3] “Pentecostal Fire Is Falling,” and “Love Never Faileth.”
 But none of his subsequent hymns ever received the wide public acclaim,
 which was given to his first hymn.
Bennard, who played a guitar but not piano,
was known as a persuasive speaker and sharp dresser, yet humble and sincere.

Bennard's first wife, Willaminta, died, and in July 1944
 he married Hannah Dahlstrom, who was his accompanist.
 The couple eventually retired to Ashton, Mich. 
    On October 9, 1958, at the age of eighty-five,
 Bennard, the holiness evangelist and songwriter,
passed from this life, exchanging his “cross for a crown.”
He spent the last few years of his life a few miles north of Reed City, Michigan.
Near his home where he spent these last years, a twelve-foot-high cross was erected,
and still remains, with the words emblazoned upon it,
‘The Old Rugged Cross’
Home of George Bennard,
composer of this beloved hymn
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.

I am so grateful for the sacrifice that Jesus made for me.
He took my shame.
He took my sickness and disease.
He took my fears.
His blood covers me and cleanses me.
I am so grateful.
My Saviour, my Friend.
Have a blessed Easter weekend.

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1 comment :

  1. Beautiful post! Thank you for telling us the story behind this beloved hymn.


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