The Old Rugged Cross lights the way

By Lucy N. Adams | Aug 28, 2013
Photo by: Marie Metcalf photo

The cross at Lake Junaluska has a beautiful history that is treasured. It was to be only a summer blessing when it was dedicated on July 10, 1922.

But the Southern Railway employees had a special request. Could it be lighted each night throughout the whole year because of the inspiration it gave to them as they traveled through this area.

Their request was granted and the rest is history. Thousands have been blessed because of its presence each day and especially each night when the lights come on.

The awesome image of Jesus being crucified on the cross of Calvary could be heartbreaking, but we know the power of the resurrection.

Suffering and death is over. All praise to our God because Jesus Christ is alive! That is why the composer of this wonderful old hymn, wrote these words, “I will cherish the old rugged cross.”

Composer, George Bennard was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1873. He moved with his family to Iowa. While in his teens his father died and he became the sole support of his mother and younger sisters.

More education was impossible, but he gained his theological knowledge through his association with ministers and by his own disciplined study.

When Bennard married he and his wife became Salvation Army workers and he was a brigade leader of the corps.

Although he wrote more than 300 gospel songs throughout his ministry, he is remembered for this one special hymn he wrote in 1913.

“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.  And I love that old cross, where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.

Chorus:  So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, ‘Til my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”

In the “One Year Book of Hymns,” we read George Bennard’s own words: “The inspiration came to me one day in 1913 when I was staying in Albion, Michigan. I began to write and completed the melody first.

The words that I first wrote were imperfect.  The words of the finished hymn were put into my heart in answer to my own need.  Shortly thereafter it was introduced at special evangelistic meetings.”

Through the years, thousands of people have sat at the base of the cross at Lake Junaluska and renewed their commitment to the Lord.

Some have even given their lives, for the first time, to the one who died over two thousand years ago on the old rugged cross.

Let us never lose sight of the purpose of the death of Jesus. One of my favorite Bible verses is from the first letter of Peter, Chapter 2 verse 24.

“He bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins,  we might  live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Praise God for that old rugged cross that led to the tomb and to the glory of resurrection.

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