Hymn: When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

Words: Isaac Watts, 1707

Music: Hamburg, Lowell Mason, 1824

Our hymn selection for Holy Week was written by Isaac Watts in 1707. Lowell Mason composed the tune in 1824. Prolific hymn-writer Charles Wesley reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) had a flair for verse from his youth. He entered a Nonconformist Academy at age 16, and at age 20 returned home. Over the next two years he wrote the bulk of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, which were sung in the Southampton Chapel and published in 1707-09. He worked as a tutor and preached his first sermon at age 24. Later he was ordained as pastor of an Independent congregation. Shortly thereafter, his health began to fail, and a fever wrecked his constitution, though he lived for 36 more years. He has written hundreds of hymns, including Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed, Joy to the World, and O God, Our Help in Ages Past.

Lowell Mason (1792-1872), a native of Massachusetts, had a great interest in music, but for many years kept it as a side pursuit while he worked as a bank clerk. He eventually became the director of music at various churches, president of the Handel and Haydn Society, and the first music teacher in an American public school. He is often called the “father of American church music”, having composed more than one thousand religious tunes including Antioch (Joy to the World) and Bethany (Nearer, My God, to Thee).

Hymn Lyric Video (Embed video here)

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Words: Isaac Watts, 1707

Music: Hamburg, Lowell Mason, 1824

Verse 1
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.

Verse 2
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.

Verse 3
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?

Verse 4
His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Verse 5
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.

Verse 6
To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race Forever and forevermore.