When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Five Days of Hymn Stories


When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

[T]he message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
                        —1 Corinthians 1:18

Isaac Watts is known as the “father of English hymnody.” Of his 750 hymns, the best-known is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

He based it on Paul’s words, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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 Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

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.

Theologian Matthew Arnold called it “the greatest hymn in the English language.”

Unfathomable love compressed into a single scene:
the cross of Christ.

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