WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS written in 1707
When Isaac Watts wanted a hymn to go with his sermon, he simply wrote one! He ended up writing more than 600 hymns, and is known as “The Father of English Hymnody”.
It was a daring move when, in 1707, Isaac Watts published his first book of hymns. At that time it was the practice of almost every congregation of the Church of England to sing only Old Testament psalms in their public worship. But, Watts had grown to dislike this because it restricted the Christian from being able to explicitly celebrate in song all those aspects of the gospel that are fulfilled and illuminated in the New Testament.
So, when Isaac needed a hymn for a Communion service one Sunday morning, he wrote “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. Some have called it the first hymn written in the English language (to this point, most hymns were translated into English from other languages such as Latin or German).
The words to this hymn vividly describe the scene at Calvary and our dying Savior. And the haunting melody fits the serious tone of the lyrics… and Christ’s sacrificial death.
What could we possibly offer to God in exchange for His gracious gift? All that we are and have is but a small offering in return for such great love.
Read these lyrics, and use them as a mirror to examine your own heart…
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
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?
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.