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?
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.
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.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.
This might be Isaac Watts’s best known hymn – it certainly gives Our God Our Help In AgesPast a run for its money. Isaac Watts might the best known hymn writer of our tradition. It might be the hymn which the greatest number of our church members know by heart. It might be indissolubly linked to the tune Rockingham in many minds (although those who were known as Primitive Methodists on Wearside sang it to the tune Job which you can hear here). But what might it mean for us in 2017?
When I survey the wondrous cross, may I find the power of the cross to save me. May I find the victor and the victim, who showed the extent of divine love, offered freely and without limit.
When I survey the wondrous cross, may I find both wondrous grace and mercy. Not a license to do what I want, but freedom to do what I ought.
When I survey the wondrous cross, may I find that divine love which is and will always be sufficient. May I find eternal life: abundant, full, and free.
Lord, your cross is open to the whole world: it plunges to our depths, and lifts us to your heights; it reaches out to embrace all humanity. May we not set limits where you have set none; may we not imprison your love in our narrowness of doctrine; may your Church embody your love in its life, and not lock it up within its walls. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is minister of Farnham & Elstead URCs and Clerk of General Assembly.