When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Hymns are beautiful truths poetically told, hung on a rhythm, and held in a melody. This makes them memorable. Hymn Study is extremely simple. Sing the hymn once a day. We’ve provided you links to different versions of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” to enjoy and a link to download the sheet music for the hymn. Some of this year’s selections are very familiar, and others are more obscure.  In keeping with our Ancients theme, these hymns are older, written before 1700.

The Hymn

Text in English: 

 1 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.

2 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 through his blood.

3 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?

4 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.


Hymn Story:  

Isaac Watts, an Englishman, wrote “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
This poem is a meditation on the purpose of Jesus’s death and the significance of it for a Christian.  Like many of Watt’s other poems, it includes complex theological thought presented in a manner that makes it memorable for a congregation. At the time of Watt’s birth (1674), English churches had no hymns. They sang only metrical psalms. Over the course of his life, Watts invented the modern hymnody by producing 600 hymns published in seven collections and used widely in English-speaking churches in both England and colonial America.


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