In 1913 George Bennard was struggling with a problem that caused him much suffering. His mind went back again and again to Christ’s anguish on the cross. This was the heart of the Gospel!
The cross he pictured was no gold-covered icon. It was a rough, splintery thing, stained with gore. As he studied on the verse Philippians 3:10, Bennard got the theme for a hymn that has become a favorite for many: "The Old Rugged Cross."
Bennard, an evangelist in the Methodist Church was “praying for a full understanding of the cross and its plan in Christianity.”
Over a period of time he studied more and more about the cross
He prayed and meditated on the cross of Christ until one day he was able to say “I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption.” The theme was so great, it needed a song.
In a room in Albion, Michigan, Bennard sat down and wrote a tune
But the only words that would come were, “I’ll cherish the old rugged cross." He struggled for weeks to set the words to the melody he had written.
Bennard was scheduled to preach a series of messages in New York.
As he found himself focusing on the cross, it became increasingly more urgent to him. He sat down in Albion, Michigan again and this time the words came. “I sat down and immediately was able to rewrite the stanzas of the song without so much as one word failing to fall into place. I called my wife, took out my guitar, and sang the completed song to her. She was thrilled."
On June 7,1913 George Bennard introduced the new hymn in a revival meeting he was conducting in Pokagon, Michigan. "The Old Rugged Cross" soon became one of the top ten most popular hymns of the 20th Century.
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