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When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Galatians 6:14
ROCKINGHAM  |  Hymn History  |  Same-Tune Hymns  |  Bible Passage
Author: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
Musician: Edward Miller, 1731-1807

  Play Music | MP3 • Click to listen to the music for this hymn.

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 off'ring far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.



HYMN HISTORY:

When teenager Isaac Watts complained to his father about the monotonous way Christians in England sang the Old Testament Psalms, his father, a leading deacon, snapped back 'All right young man, you give us something better.'

To Isaac Watts, the singing of God's praise was the form of worship nearest to Heaven and he went on to argue: 'It's performance among us is the worst on earth.' Young Isaac accepted his father's challenge and eventually wrote a total of more than 600 hymns, earning him the title 'The father of English hymnody.'

Even as a child Isaac had shown a passion for poetry, rhyming and such mundane things as everyday conversation. His serious-minded father, after several warnings, decided to spank the rhyming nonsense out of his son. But the tearful Isaac helplessly replied,

'Oh father do some pity take,
and I will no more verses make.'

However, choirs, congregations and individual Christians rejoice to this day that the young lad did not keep his impromptu promise. If he had, none of us would have the thrill of singing such all-time favourites as "Oh God Our Help In Ages Past," "Am I A Soldier Of The Cross" or "Joy To The World."

As a child, Isaac Watts was sickly and unattractive, yet, even by today's standards he was clever beyond his years. He began the study of Latin at the age of four, and added Greek when he was nine, French at eleven and Hebrew at thirteen.

At fifteen the young poet turned his talents to the service of the church and the great career in hymn-writing began.

In his hymns Isaac Watts takes the Word of God, of which he must have been a diligent student, and distils it so that all is wisdom, beauty and comfort are set before us with plainness and power. No wonder, then, that C.H. Spurgeon's grandfather, himself a great preacher, and in the line of the Puritans, would have nothing else but the hymns of Isaac Watts sung in his services.

Isaac Watt's greatest composition must surely be "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross."

It has been called 'The very best hymn in the English language' and in it Watts, using only 16 lines, paints a soul-stirring picture of the Saviour's death on the cross coupled with the whole-hearted response of the believer to such amazing love.

As Tedd Smith says 'It seems to me that Isaac Watts wrote this text as if he were standing at the foot of Christ's cross.'

How blessed to reflect on the finished work of Christ Jesus, as summed up in those lines:

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?

And how enriching to be able to voice our reconsecration to the Lord's service in the words:

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.


OTHER HYMNS with the SAME TUNE:

•   'Tis Midnight; and on Olive's Brow  St. 1-3: William B. Tappan, 1794-1849
•   Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands  Charles H. Spurgeon, 1834-1892
•   O Father, Thou Whose Love Profound  Edward Cooper, 1770-1833


BIBLE PASSAGE:

14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.



Dr. Calvin Ray Evans
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