Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

The Old Rugged Cross

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By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Once every year, billions of people on every continent of the globe stop whatever they are doing and remember the mystery of Easter.  At the heart of that mystery is the old rugged cross.  For those of us who have a soft spot for Western movies, the ‘Old Rugged Cross’ song invariably turns up somewhere, often by a windblown graveside.

“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.”

‘The Old Rugged Cross’ song was written by George Bennard, who lived from 1873-1958.  “The Old Rugged Cross” is still the most frequently requested hymn; and the most popular spiritual song of the past 100 years.  Within thirty years of its original publication in 1913, more than twenty million copies of “The Old Rugged Cross” had been sold, outselling every other musical composition of any kind! What is it that makes this gospel song so popular?

‘The Old Rugged Cross’ was written in response to a deep personal need in Bennard’s own life.  Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on February 4, 1873, George Bennard was raised in a loving coalminer family, the only son among four daughters.  When George was only sixteen years old, his father died, leaving George to care for his mother and four sisters. After a period of time with the Salvation Army, George became a traveling speaker for the Methodist church, holding meetings in Canada and in the northern and central United States.

After a very painful time in New York, Bennard went back home in 1913 to Michigan.  His mind returned again and again to Christ’s agony on the cross.  During this time, Bennard read Galatians 6:14 in which the Apostle Paul states: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  Bennard became convinced that the cross was not merely a symbol of Christianity, but the very heart of it. He realized that the cross was not gold-covered, but rather a rough, splintery thing, stained with gore.

The words, “the old rugged cross,” came into his mind and then the notes of a melody ran through his head.  Several weeks later, after a period of prayer, the poetry of the verses began to flow from his pen almost unbidden.   “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,” he said later.

After writing this hymn, George Bennard went on to travel and preach for another forty years..  Thanks to being chosen by Billy Sunday (the Billy Graham of those days), everyone began singing this unforgettable song.  Years later, Johny Cash himself recorded this song.  Although Bennard wrote 300 other hymns, none of them became as popular as his first.

Dr. Alistair McGrath of Oxford comments, “Those great old hymns — such as Rock of Ages, The Old Rugged Cross and When I survey — remain wonderful statements of the centrality of the cross…They express the power of the cross so much better than I can ever hope to do. As George Bennard put it in 1913:

“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.”

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

 -previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

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Author: edhird

I am the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C., having served there since 1987. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was the Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm05.htm For the past 26 years, I have been privileged to write over 400 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to lead conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Toronto. My new sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a copy of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', please send a $18.50 cheque to 'Ed Hird', #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. For more info, please click on www3.telus.net/st_simons/nsnews030.html

2 thoughts on “The Old Rugged Cross

  1. Pingback: My most read articles | Edhird's Blog

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