The Old, Rugged Cross

I am going to post two VERY unrelated posts today. Here’s the first.

I have a lot of sources of fellowship, but at the moment the main one is a house church I am part of. This last week we sang hymns rather than more modern songs. I was reminded of how much I love some of the old hymns.

In particular, I want to mention “The Old, Rugged Cross.”

That may seem strange, given my strong opposition to the modern “paid penalty” theory. Just because I think the idea that Jesus “paid the penalty” for our past, present, and future sins is unscriptural, and even monstrous, does not mean that I don’t love what Jesus did on the cross and, in fact, cherish the cross “where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.”

Here is the YouTube link if the song doesn’t play for you on this page.

Here are the words:

On a hill far away, stood an old, rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame.
How I love that old cross
Where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain:
I will 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

Oh, 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

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.

To that old, rugged cross I will ever be true,
Its shame and reproach gladly bear.
Then he’ll call me some day to his home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share.

Basically, I cry at the last two lines of every stanza, and I have for years.

Another I really love is “Oh, Sacred Head Now Wounded.” I’ll just quote a couple lines from it:

What thou, my Lord, has suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression
But yours the deadly pain

I remember hearing another song years ago, and I want to add a couple sentences from it because they explain my love for these hymns:

I know not why the sovereign King
Would leave his throne on high
To dwell here in this barren land
‘Mongst mortals such as I.
He left his home in paradise;
Oh, why I’ll never know
But his precious blood has washed me purer
Than the driven snow!

I may not like how we’ve translated the atonement into some sort of legal thing, nor made God some kind of slave of cosmic law who is forbidden mercy unless he kills something or someone, but I love the cross. How could we ever be more grateful than to know that we were purchased with precious blood, that ours was the transgression, that his was the deadly pain? How can we not fall on our knees and rejoice in the Master who bought us with his blood?

I love even the words of Paul: “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus the King, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”

The cross may be an instrument of torture and death, but we must die that we might live. Let us embrace it, cherish it, cling to it, and carry it down the Via Dolorosa, the way of pain.

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