Monday, March 10, 2008

America Must Pray: The Old Rugged Cross

The Salvation Army began to reach out to the down-and-out with the gospel on the streets of our fast growing industrial cities following the Civil War. One member of the Army who left a mark beyond the inner city was George Bennard. His work on the streets of American cities inspired him to compose a hymn that without a doubt became the most popular gospel song written in the twentieth century. With its publication in 1913, "The Old Rugged Cross" became an instant classic.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown.

"The Old Rugged Cross" soon became the unofficial anthem for the outreach for the Army with the gospel in both America and Britain. Bennard would be shocked today to see how the Army has changed. It is now simply a charitable institution where the gospel is muddied and put on the back burner in its work. During the '08 Super Bowl half-time performance, the Army sponsored the most obscene musical group one could imagine gyrating on a stage before millions of television viewers. As so many Christian institutions the Army is shifting to the left and forgetting its original purpose—of saving lost souls for Christ!