Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Story behind When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Isaac Watts, one of the best-loved hymn composers, began his prolific career at an early age. He complained to his father that the staid Psalms sung at that time in churches were not inspirational enough. His father challenged him to write his own church music, which he did.

Isaac penned this hymn in 1707 in preparation for a communion service. In its day, it was controversial - the first hymn to use a personal pronoun and to involve a personal religious experience. Such hymns were known as "hymns of human composure".
The hymn was first published under the title "Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ", as titles at that time summarized the theme of the hymn. There is also a fourth stanza that was so gory in its nature for its time that Watts said it could be deleted if need be. Thus, most of us have never sung it.  
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.

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