Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Isaac Watts)

Hymns form a most important part of our worship. They mold character and often shape the lives of those who sing them. For these reasons hymns should never be chosen carelessly, but always with respect to the occasion and the sentiment.

"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed, And did my Sovereign die?" is a very beautiful and appropriate Good Friday hymn which came as a most discordant note to our ears immediately following the sermon at a Harvest Festival. It had no meaning there.

Our worship will mean much more to us when we have learned to appreciate the hymns we sing. When we appreciate them, know their history, peculiar character
and inner meaning, we will use them appropriately. When thus used we will enter into their spirit and they will add harmony and meaning to the worship of the day.

There is unusual force to the hymns of Lent which in themselves furnish a rich field of study. An interpretation of a few will we trust send our readers to the sources that they may make a general study of the hymns which sing into our lives the facts and the spirit of the season which inspires the Christian to take up the cross and follow after Christ. One of the grandest of the Lenten hymns is from the pen of Isaac Watts.

Isaac Watts' Survey of the cross


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 a tribute far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

This hymn is placed by very competent critics among the four hymns which stand at the head of hymns in the English language. Grand as it is, we know little concerning its origin. Like many of the hymns of Isaac Watts, little is known beyond the date of publication, which is given as 1709. The hymn is a classic in its language, in its thought and in its spirit. The faith which it should inspire is the kind which will sustain and carry through life.

Isaac Watts, the author, was born at Southampton, England, July 17, 1764. He was offered a university education if he would become a minister of the Church of England, but he declined, preferring to become a ''Dissenter." He preached his first sermon when he was twenty-four years of age. He became a distinguished writer, most of his writings being classics which have found an honored place in the permanent Literature of the English language.

Below is a Christian Music video from Gaither Music featuring the song, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross".
 

---From "Favorite Hymns "

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