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  • Dwight Carr, Music Minister

The Demand of the Cross

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

What does the cross demand of us? This coming Sunday one of the hymns which we will sing in worship is “When I Survey the Wondrus Cross”. This hymn in universally accepted as the best hymn written by Issac Watts who wrote more than 750 hymns during his lifetime, 14 of which are in our current Baptist Hymnal.

At the age of eighteen Watts was one day ridiculing some of the poor hymns then sung in the churches, when his father said to him, sarcastically, “Make some yourself, then.” Accordingly, Watts set himself to writing a hymn, and produce the lines beginning: “Behold the glories of the Lamb.” That was the start of his eminent career as a hymn-writer.

He became a clergyman, but illness compelled him to give up the pastorate, and for thirty-six years he remained at the home of Sir Thomas Abbey at Theobaldo [in England], continuing his hymn-writing, which had reached its highest expression in this hymn, based on Paul’s words, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Once, after this hymn had been sung in the Church of Saint Edmund, London, Father Ignatius repeated to his congregation the last two lines of the hymn impressively—“Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” And he added: “Well, I am surprised to hear you sing that. Do you know that altogether you put only fifteen shillings in the collection bag this morning?”

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 present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

When we sing these lines, what does it demand of you?

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