Lenten Hymns and Their Story

March 07, 2023

“In the Cross of Christ, I Glory”

Originally titled “The Cross of Christ”, this text by John Bowring [1792-1872] first appeared in he author’s 1825 collection called “Hymns” .  He was inspired to write this hymn by the sight of an old Portugese church at Macao, built three hundred years before, and which the elements had turned it into a crumbling ruin - all but the spire at the top of which an old bronze cross reflected the rays of the setting sun.  Despite war, weather, and misuse, the cross atop this church remained a testimony of the enduring love of Christ.
The words “In the Cross of Christ, I Glory” are written into the tombstone of John Bowring.  As with other hymns, this is also based on Galatians 6:14: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  A member of the Unitarian Church, they rejected vehemently to this hymn that focused “so much on a cross, and less on man”.
The confession of the Apostle is clear in verse one.  The cross in indeed “sublime, majestic, noble, and awe-inspiring."  Even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church confesses Jesus as Christ, the Son of the Living God.   The author wished for all readers, and those who wished to sing this hymn to revel in the glory of the cross, and no in the theology of glory.
The “theology of the cross” is portrayed clearly and concisely in verse two.  We are to sing of the promise of Christ never leaves or forsakes believers.  The cross provides peace, hope and joy in all circumstances.
Verse 3 uses language of light to describe the bliss of the love of God in Christ.  Jesus is he light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome, the source of every perfect gift.    There is beauty in an ugly cross, because of what Christ has done there.  
Verse 4 further applies the Biblical theology of the cross, that good and bad alike, bane [affliction] and blessing, pain and pleasure, are made holy in Christ because of His cross.
Singing verse 1 again as verse five, as the author intended, is a very satisfying conclusion to the hymn, a confession of a reverent awe for the eternal blessings of one day, a truly Good Friday.

In the cross of Christ I glory, tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time.
All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.           

LSB 427

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