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474. In the Cross of Christ I Glory

1 In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o'er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

2 When the woes of life o'ertake me,
hopes deceive and fears annoy,
never shall the cross forsake me;
lo! it glows with peace and joy.

3 When the sun of bliss is beaming
light and love upon my way,
from the cross the radiance, streaming,
adds more luster to the day.

4 Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
by the cross are sanctified;
peace is there that knows no measure,
joys that through all time abide.

Text Information
First Line: In the cross of Christ I glory
Title: In the Cross of Christ I Glory
Author: John Bowring (1825)
Meter: 87 87
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ; ; ; ;
Topic: Cross of Christ; Redemption; Atonement
Tune Information
Composer: Ithamar Conkey (1851)
Meter: 87 87
Key: C Major

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Gal. 6:14, 1 Cor. 2:2
st. 2 = 1 Cor. 1:18

John Bowring's text was inspired by Galatians 6: 14: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Originally in five stanzas (st. 5 was a repeat of st. 1), it was initially entitled "The
Cross of Christ" but later came to be known as "Glorying in the Cross." (The often-told story that Bowring wrote this hymn text after seeing a cross on top of a ruined cathedral on the island of Macao near Hong Kong is not true; Bowring went to Hong Kong twenty-four years after writing the text.)

The first stanza affirms that the cross of Christ stands at the center of history; it is the key to the meaning of the history of events or civilizations that are the "wrecks of time." Stanzas 2 and 3 confess the comfort, peace, and joy that Christ's cross brings to our troubled personal lives. Stanza 4 concludes that "bane and blessing, pain and pleasure" become a profound experience of unending peace and joy when "sanctified by the cross."

John Bowring (b. Exeter, England, 1792; d. Exeter, 1872) was a businessman who spent much of his life in public service. From 1828 to 1835 he worked for the British government as a political economist in the Netherlands, France, and Belgium. A member of Parliament, he worked for the British government in China in 1849 and completed his government career as governor of Hong Kong. Bowring's literary output was phenomenal: he published thirty-six volumes on topics ranging from economics to biography, science, religion, and poetry. In practice a devout Christian, he belonged to the Unitarian Church, Bowring studied two hundred languages and claimed to speak one hundred. Included in his writings are two collections of hymns, Matins and Vespers with Occasional Devotional Pieces (1823) and Hymns as a Sequel to Matins (1825), which included "In the Cross of Christ I Glory."

Liturgical Use:
Lent and Holy Week; other services that focus on the meaning of Christ's cross for us.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

This story is associated with the writing of RATHBUN: One Sunday in 1849 Ithamar Conkey (b. Shutesbury, MA, 1815; d. Elizabeth, NJ, 1867) walked out of the morning service at Central Baptist Church, Norwich, Connecticut, where he was choir director and organist, frustrated because only one soprano from his choir had come that morning. The next Sunday the minister preached a Lenten message on the words of Christ on the cross. One of the hymns to be sung was Bowring's "In the Cross of Christ I Glory." Later that day Conkey's discouragement changed to inspiration, and he composed a new tune for that text. He named the tune after that one faithful soprano, Mrs. Beriah S. Rathbun. The tune was published in Henry W. Greatorex's Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1851). In 1850 Conkey moved to New York City and became bass soloist at Calvary Episcopal Church. Later he was bass soloist and conductor of the quartet choir at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church. He also sang frequently in oratorio performances.

RATHBUN is easily sung in parts. To sense the joy that breathes through the text, do not sing too slowly. Some hymnals set this text to STUTTGART (329), a helpful alternate choice.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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(Faith Alive Christian Resources)
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