The Old Rugged Cross is one of the most cherished hymns of the Christian faith.  In fact, it’s a good bet that it ranks right up there with Amazing Grace as being iconic.  Many artists have recorded this song throughout the years.  Many of you, like myself, have sung this hymn countless times.  Let’s find out where this beloved hymn came from.

George Bennard was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1873.  When he was a teenager, his father passed away, and was left with a ton of responsibilities.  He decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps and became a coal miner.  Later on in life, he and his wife worked with the Salvation Army.

George had become a minister and served many years as an evangelist.  He preached anywhere he received an invitation.  His favorite Bible verse of all time was John 3:16.  Every time he quoted that verse, he always seemed to have a mental vision of the cross, which was the Roman Empire’s cruelest form of punishing prisoners by death.  Jesus willingly laid down his life and endured this form of punishment because He loved us that much.  It is because of this sacrifice that we can inherit eternal life.

George was reflecting on Jesus’ death on the cross when an original melody came to mind.  He had a complete melody, but the lyrics didn’t come all at once.  He tried to write some lyrics, but the only thing that came was “I’ll cherish the old rugged cross”.  Not a bad start, huh?

Some time later, George returned home in Albion, Michigan from several preaching dates.  He had a renewed meaning of the cross on his heart and took the song manuscript and laid it out on the kitchen table. Once he started writing lyrics to his song, the words flowed and fell in place perfectly.  After the lyrics were finished, he sang the song to his wife, who loved the song.

George had no idea how to write chords to the song, so he sent it to Charles H. Gabriel for help.  Charles gladly finished the song for George.  When he returned the completed song, he wrote a message that said, “You’ll hear from this song”.

When reflecting on writing the song, George was quoted as saying, “I really didn’t write it.  I was merely the instrument of God used.”

The cross was no walk in the park-not even for Jesus.  However, He willingly went through it for just one reason: You.  He loves you that much.  He died so that you might live.  All it takes is faith in Him.  It’s that simple, yet it’s that hard.

As a final note, I asked my wife what her favorite hymn was in an effort to get a suggestion for the next hymn to write about.  She thought for a minute, then she suggested this hymn for two reasons.  First, her dad has sung this song many times, especially as she was growing up.  Second, her grandpa went home to Heaven while this song was playing.  I guess you can say he cherished the old rugged cross right up to his last breath.  Will you?

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