George Bennard penned this hymn after hours of meditation and prayer. Bennard began his Christian ministry in the ranks of the Salvation Army. Later he would be ordained by the Methodist Episcopal church. This hymn was born from a trying experience and one that caused Bennard to seriously reflect upon the cross and salvation. Both Philippians 3:10 and 1 Peter 2:24 were instrumental in creating this hymn:
I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out of the meaning of redemption. The more I contemplated these truths the more convinced I became that the cross was far more than just a religious symbol, but rather the very heart of the gospel.
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.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
has a wondered attraction for me;
for the dear Lamb of God let His glory above
to bear it to dark Calvary
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
where His glory forever I’ll share.
Chorus: So I’ll cherish the old suggest cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling tot he old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.
Words and Music by George Bennard, 1873–1958