Watts on Surveying the Wondrous Cross

If you had to choose the finest twenty or thirty historic hymns for use by your congregation, where would you turn? Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is three hundred years old and is one of the strongest and most familiar hymns in the English language on the subject of Christ's suffering and death. It first appeared in a collection of Communion hymns under the heading "Crucifixion in the World by the Cross of Christ, Gal. 6:14."

CRUCIFIXION IN THE WORLD BY THE CROSS OF CHRIST: Gal. 6:14

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory dy'd,
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?

[His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o'er his body on the tree;
Then am I dead to all the globe
And all the globe is dead to me.]

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.

--Isaac Watts, first published in HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, 1707. The tune that most of us know for this text (HAMBURG) was written 117 years later by American music educator Lowell Mason. One can find literally hundreds of recordings and musical arrangements, even a host of YouTube offerings that proclaim "the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory dy'd."


CHIP'S THOUGHTS:

I copy this today from the oldest hymnal in my collection. Printed in London in 1793, the volume contains THE PSALMS OF DAVID, IMITATED IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND APPLIED TO THE CHRISTIAN STATE AND WORSHIP by I. WATTS, D.D. In the same binding is HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS IN THREE BOOKS: (I.) Collected from the Scriptures, (II.) Composed on Divine Subjects, and (III.) Prepared for the Lord's Supper. Of course, the book has words only. I have retained the early spelling and punctuation with the exception of the use of the long "S" (S's that look very much like F's). In his later publications, Watts bracketed stanza four as optional; it is rarely included in modern hymnals. Perhaps today's editors, unlike the apostles Paul, Peter, John, and the writer of Hebrews, think that we should avoid language about the blood of Christ.


To find out more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.