by Roger Thomas

The Old Rugged Cross
Roger Thomas
Galatians 1:3-5, 2:20, 3:1, 6:14
March 28, 2004

Introduction: Music experts report that it is America's most frequently requested hymn. Songbook editors have designated it the most popular of all twentieth-century religious songs. It was written in 1913, first published in 1915. By the 1940's, it had out sold all other musical compositions of any kind.

If we were playing Jeopardy, it would now be your turn to say, "What is The Old Rugged Cross"?

What is it that makes this gospel song so popular? Some experts say the secret is the way George Bennard skillfully wed a harmonious melody, a good chorus, and easily memorized words. Others say it's the raw emotionalism of the hymn. Still others claim its success comes from the simple way it presents the truth of the Gospel story. For George Bennard, however, the hymn came in answer to a deep personal need.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on February 4, 1873, George Bennard grew up in a loving family, the only son among four daughters. While he was still a youngster, the family moved to Lucas, Iowa. There at a Salvation Army revival meeting, he made a personal commitment to follow Christ.

When George was sixteen, tragedy struck. His father died. He spent the rest of his teen years helping to provide for his mother and four sisters. Several years later Bennard married, entered the ministry of the Salvation Army church and later served as a Methodist evangelist. He conducted revivals across North America.

After one especially disappointing experience, Bennard returned to his home in Michigan. He struggled with whether to continue his evangelistic work or not. As he began to meditate about the cross, his thoughts turned to Galatians 6:14. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." He couldn't get the words out of his mind. The more he thought about it, the more he reali ...

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