When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: A Close Look at an Old Favorite

In honor of Good Friday, I offer you a verse-by-verse discussion of the most popular Crucifixion hymn ever. Isaac Watts’s “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is over 300 years old and still being re-recorded on a regular basis; YouTube alone offers thousands of performance samples. As you meditate on each verse in turn, consider the accompanying questions and pray that God will guide you to the right answers.

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.

What commands more of your attention: your own achievements and desires, or Christ’s sacrifice for you? When was the last time you really considered all that was involved in “the wondrous Cross”? Can you honestly say that you count all gain as loss compared to knowing the One Who died for you?

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.

What “vain things” charm you most? What are you most inclined to boast about? What can you do today to lay those things at the foot of the Cross?

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?

How often do you consider the depth of the pain Jesus endured? Do you appreciate that it was all for your sake? Can you imagine the love it took for Him to voluntarily submit to that?

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.

What does it mean to you to give your “soul, life, and all” to God? What does He offer you in exchange? What will you do today about fully surrendering yourself to Him?

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