The Cross of Christ

Velazque.jpgIn a recent post, David Hayward quoted from Martin Luther’s “pivotal book, The Bondage of the Will,” in which Luther writes:

In every creature St. Paul, with his sharp, discerning, apostolic eye, perceived the holy and beloved cross.*

This quote reminded me of one of my favorite hymns. Written by Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is such a beautiful blend of scriptural references, imagery and personal pietism (and in this case I mean this in a good way) that I don’t think there will ever be a hymn to surpass it’s portrayal of the crucified Christ and our needed response. The lyrics of the hymn are reprinted below.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
Music: Lowell Mason, 1792-1872
Tune: HAMBURG, Meter: LM

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 an offering far too small
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Personally, I cannot read or sing the last verse of this hymn without becoming teary-eyed.  To consider the gift of Christ on the cross is something that I need to do more often in both my devotional and preaching lives. I feel the need to be more like Paul in this regard, who once wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified.”

Another hymn that I love with much the same theme is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Text: Anonymous; trans. by Paul Gerhardt and James W. Alexander
Music: Hans L. Hassler, 1564-1612; harm. by J.S. Bach, 1685-1750
Tune: PASSION CHORALE, Meter: 76.76 D

O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how pale thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners’ gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.

It seems to me that the sentiments expressed in these two hymns are the perfect antidote to the selfish and self-centered attitudes of many people in today’s world.  At least they are an antidote to these attitudes in me.  Spend a few minutes contemplating these hymns and their message.  And though I am no prosperity preacher, I am sure you will benefit greatly from such contemplation.

* Initial quote originally published on Sun, 28 Jan 2007 10:46:14 GMT by David Hayward.

One thought on “The Cross of Christ

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