WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14
After Isaac Watts finished his college studies and returned home to Southampton, he wrote many of his now-immortalized hymns from Above Bar Congregational Church. In 1696, Isaac, twenty-two, left home for London to become a tutor.
All the while, he was feeling a clear tug toward ministry. On his twenty-fourth birthday, July 17, 1698, Isaac preached his first sermon. The following year, he became assistant pastor of London’s Mark Lane Church.
In March of 1700, Isaac received a long letter from his brother, Enoch, urging him to publish the hymns he had written at Southampton. The letter said:
Dear Brother; in your last [letter] you [mentioned] an inclination to oblige the world by showing it your hymns in print, and I heartily wish…. that you were something more than inclinable thereunto…. I am very confident whoever has the happiness of reading your hymns (unless he be either sot or atheist) will have a very favorable opinion of their author…. There is….a great need of a pen, vigorous and lively as yours, to quicken and revive the dying devotion of the age…. Yours now is the old truth, stripped of its rugged ornaments, and appears, if we may say so, younger by ages in a new and fashionable dress.
Isaac, however, hesitated. He had other obligations on his time. On March 8, 1702, he became Mark Lane’s pastor. The next year, 1703, the church chose Samuel Price of Wales to assist Isaac, due to the latter’s fragile health. Under the preaching of these two, the old, dying church revived. The building grew too small for the crowds, and a new house of worship was built down the street.
Finally, in 1707, Watts published his hymns, selling the copyright to a Mr. Lawrence, the publisher, for ten pounds. This volume was an instant success. It was enlarged and republished in 1709.
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” appeared in his 1707 book of hymns. Inspired by Galatians 6:14, it was originally titled, “Crucifixion to the World, by the Cross of Christ.” Many consider it the finest hymn in English church history, and Charles Wesley reportedly said he would rather have written it than all his own.
As we have now entered into the Lenten Season, we are encouraged to reflect upon our lives, and make every effort through study, thought and prayer to, as one friend said, “clean up our lives.” In my case, that might take a rather large broom! Seriously, just focusing on the Cross of Christ makes an overwhelming impression on my thinking and, hopefully, my acting.
The hymn starts out with the line: When I survey the wondrous cross, one which the King of Glory died. He came to this earth PREPARED to DIE for each of us; for you, for me and for all those who came before and will come after. He died to make us clean, purify us, to show us a better way of living with ourselves and certainly others.
Through this last year many have evaluated their situations physically and financially, but have we taken the time to do the same for our hearts? Maybe we have given thought to how we interact with our immediate families, but have those thoughts either intentionally or unintentionally floated on over to Jesus? The sacrifice so great, utterly incomprehensible for us as humans.
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?
The picture these words paint is of nothing other than pure and all-encompassing love. As you listen to the links that have been provided, I would encourage you to let this unimaginable love wash over you and as you do so, commit to letting it spill into every aspect of your life. May you find a peace you’ve never known during these forty days, and may it remain forever!.
Grace and Peace, Carolyn
Fountainview Academy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DHszgAVFdw
Choir of Kings College, Cambridge (This is a different tune as opposed to the one in
Methodist Hymnal) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9eCUqz_x5A
Festival Choir – Dr. Weston Noble, Conductor – Frederick Swann, Organist – The Mark
Thallander Foundation Festival (Cantus Laudendi – Canticles of Praise) – Lake Avenue Church,