Hymn Study: The Old Rugged Cross

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Hymn Study for Homeschoolers

Hymn Study for Homeschoolers is a new series being published weekdays from October 15-26. It’s a simple guide to hymn study that includes free printable notebooking and copywork pages for ten well-loved hymns.

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The Old Rugged Cross

Hymn History

George Bennard

George Bennard

George Bennard, author and composer of “The Old Rugged Cross,” was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on February 4, 1873. As a young boy,  George moved to Iowa with his family. Before he was sixteen years of age, his father passed away, and George was left to sup­port his mo­ther and sis­ters.

After his marriage, Bennard became active in the Salvation Army; in fact, both he and his wife served as Salvation Army officers. Later Bennard was ordained by Methodist Episcopal Church. He conducted revival services across the United States and Canada, holding many meetings in Michigan and New York.

As he passed through a particularly trying time in his life, Mr. Bennard realized what it meant to enter into “the fellowship of [Christ’s] sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10) He understood that the cross was much more than just a sentimental religious symbol. This realization led him to write “The Old Rugged Cross.”

Bennard actually composed the melody for “The Old Rugged Cross” before he wrote the text. The hymn was first sung publicly at an evangelistic meeting in Pokagon, Michigan, on June 7, 1913. “The Old Rugged Cross” soon became extremely popular throughout the United States, and it is generally considered to be the most popular of the twentieth century hymns.

Mr. Bennard continued in evangelistic work for forty years after writing this well-loved hymn. He wrote other hymns, but none were ever as popular as “The Old Rugged Cross.”

Ben­nard spent his last years in Reed Ci­ty, Mi­chi­gan. The local Cham­ber of Com­merce erect­ed a twelve-foot cross near his home, with the words, “‘The Old Rugged Cross’–Home of George Bennard, composer of this beloved hymn.”

Hymn Lyrics

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.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.


In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.


To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.


You can also download sheet music for The Old Rugged Cross.

Listen to the Hymn

Piano solo with lyrics

Additional Activities


You’re welcome to download this free set of  notebooking and copywork pages to use in your hymn study.

The Old Rugged Cross Printables

The Old Rugged Cross Printables

 Scripture Memorization

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – Galatians 6:14

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings…” – Philippians 3:10

Vocabulary Words

  • rugged
  • emblem
  • slain
  • cherish
  • despised
  • wondrous
  • pardon
  • sanctify
  • reproach

Sources: The Cyber Hymnal, 101 Hymn Stories: The Inspiring True Stories Behind 101 Favorite Hymns

Hymn Study for Homeschoolers is part of the Hopscotch, an event hosted by iHomeschool Network.

Hopscotch with iHN


  1. Yoon Roloson says:

    Just wanted to thank you for all your work. I teach music for our homeschool group. I was wanting something like this to teach. You made my job so much easier. Thanks.

  2. I teach music in our little school and will use some of your information in our chapel times. :-) thanks

  3. Marilyn Priebe says:

    Regarding the study on the ‘Old Rugged Cross’. Our Arizona Association of women (25 of us and almost all over 60) is meeting March 16 for a Lenten Day of Prayer and I was tasked to find a hymn to sing focusing on the Cross of Christ. (that is our theme) Well, you provided everything and more for us.

    Thank you, Judy. We wish you a holy and prayerful Lenten season and a joyous and glorious Easter!

    Ah! Qu’ill est bon, le bon dieu! O How Good is the Good God!

  4. I was wondering what phrases like “Till my trophies at last I lay down meant;” along with ” bear it to dark Cavalry”… Can anyone explain those phrases to me. Thanks.

    • Angela Mitchell says:

      “Till my trophies at last I lay down” is a reference to when one dies and cannot do God’s work here on earth. “Bear it to dark Cavalry” means Jesus going on the cross to die for us on Cavalry Mountain. Because Jesus is God’s son he is perfect and without sin; but He bears our sins for us.

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