Thoughts from the Christian perspective: discernment issues as they relate to the current state of the church and society.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
One of my favorite hymns is Isaac Watts’ When I Survey the Wondrous Cross when sung to Lowell Mason’s tune “Hamburg.” But as with other great old hymns, such as Amazing Grace twisted into Grace Like Rain, this wonderful hymn is being used for a song called The Wonderful Cross.
One thing both these new uses of old hymns do is remove very important verses with their solid doctrinal statements and replace them with trite choruses to be sung over and over. I don’t understand why contemporary “artists” can’t just come up with their own songs instead of mangling old ones, except for perhaps it’s an easy way to make another buck without having any talent for hymn-writing.
I have to admit that, unlike Grace Like Rain which removes the very memorable tune of Amazing Grace and replaces it with a horrible, tuneless dirge, The Wonderful Cross at least keeps “Hamburg” as the tune for the verses.
Unfortunately, these gross misuses of old hymns don’t stay on the CDs or radio - the church has decided to adopt them as part of their worship services. It seems to be all about pleasing the rock and roll crowd with their emotional need for 7/24 choruses (7 words sung 24 times).
Well, here is Isaac Watts’ When I Survey the Wondrous Cross as normally printed in hymnals, with that second verse which is deleted from the contemporary model. Let’s go back to this in our worship services, and leave The Wonderful Cross version for the kids and their iPods.
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 an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
[For the purists, there is a 4th stanza before the last one which I have never seen in a hymnal, although it wouldn’t hurt to add it:
His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o'er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me]