1 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.
2 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. [Refrain]
3 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. [Refrain]
4 To that 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. [Refrain]
United Methodist Hymnal
|First Line:||On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross|
|Title:||The Old Rugged Cross|
|Author:||George Bennard (1913)|
|Meter:||220.127.116.11 with refrain|
|Refrain First Line:||So I'll cherish the old rugged cross|
This hymn was begun in 1912 by George Bennard as he was holding evangelistic meetings in Michigan. He was contemplating the meaning of the cross, and was inspired to begin the song while meditating on John 3:16. He was unable to finish it, however, until early in 1913, while holding another series of evangelistic services. The song soon achieved wide popularity when it was introduced by evangelist Homer Rodeheaver.
This text was not accepted by most major hymnals until the 1950s, despite great popularity. One reason was the prohibitive fee charged by the copyright owner. Another was the somewhat controversial nature of a hymn expressing such great affection for the cross itself, rather than for Christ, the one who died there.
George Bennard wrote the tune OLD RUGGED CROSS with the text in 1912-1913. Charles H. Gabriel helped him complete the manuscript. It is a gospel hymn tune with a refrain, during which the lower voices echo the melody. There is some disagreement in different congregations about the exact rhythm of the opening line, because the natural rhythm of the words and the written rhythm of the music do not exactly align.
Because of the hymn’s focus on the cross, and its meaning for the believer, this hymn is most suited to Lent and Easter, though it may be sung at any time of year. Try combining this hymn with other hymns on the theme of the cross, presenting different aspects of its meaning, such as “The Old Rugged Cross” in medley with “At the Cross,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” set here for handbells. An accompaniment with a darker mood can help to emphasize the reality of “the emblem of suffering and shame,” as does Joel Raney’s choral setting of “The Old Rugged Cross,” based on George Bennard’s tune. The mood of the orchestral accompaniment is dark at first, evoking the suffering that the cross entails, but ends on a more joyful note, echoing the line “where His glory forever I’ll share.”
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org