When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
w/m - Isaac Watts
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 a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Here is another song from from my favorite hymn writer of all time, Isaac Watts, in the top 20 hymns of all time. This one sits at number 12 and is his most famous one. In a time when so many songs are being written offering therapeutic answers to our felt needs and troubles, it is refreshing to read these lyrics that basically say, we aren’t the center, and until Christ is, our needs will never truly be met. This song starts and ends with looking at Christ, not us.
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. How many times do we “Survey the wondrous cross”? My guess is, we think about it far less than we should. The result is often pride. If we want to destroy pride in our life and release our grip on the things of this world, the quickest way is to meditate on what Christ did for us at Calvary.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God! There is a big difference in boasting in one’s accomplishments and boasting in the work of the Lord. Any good in us is due to the indwelling Holy Spirit working in us. There is nothing to boast about from inside us, but we do not compromise in speaking and living out the inerrant word of God. We should boast all day long in our Savior! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood. There are so many things that “charm” us in this world, take up our time, and turn our focus from Christ. These “earthly joys” must fade each day in light of who we serve and what He has done.
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? Here, Watts begins to focus on the details of the crucifixion itself, giving us a look at the particulars of the scene. We see the head crowned with thorns, the hands pierced with nails, the feet pinned together with the spike. Then he makes the startling connection: we see sorrow, we see pain, we see thorns, but we also see love, and we see so great a salvation.
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. All the treasures of this world, this universe, pale in comparison with eternal life bought for us on that cross. God’s wrath on sin and His love for His own were on clear display that day 2000 years ago on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Today, that event, and our subsequent personal salvation should bring each of us to the point where we dedicate all we have to one who, in grace, saved us.
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for over 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship, not only in their home church (Mt. Airy Bible Church), but around the country. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.