“On the Cross of Calvary”

"…And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost" (Jn. 19:30)

     INTRO.: A song which reminds us of how Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit when He died is "On the Cross of Calvary" (#309 in Sacred Selections for the Church). In most of our older books, the text is attributed to "C. F. G" (although in some books it looks like "C. F. O.," probably due to smudging of ink.) It was believed to have been first published in the 1886 Good News in Song edited by Joshua Gill and George A. McLaughlin (1851-1933). Some have assumed that the "C. F. G." may have referred to Joshua Gill. However, it would seem that in Good News in Song, the hymn was attributed to Lizzie Douglas Foulkes DeArmond (1843-1936). DeArmond was a hymn writer who is also credited with "Good Night and Good Morning," "If Your Heart Keeps Right," and "Oh, the Things We May Do." Gill may have altered or arranged the words of "On the Cross of Calvary" for his book.

     Further research has indicated that the text was actually written by Sarah Jean Graham, who was born around 1854 and was a member of the Salvation Army at Lindsay in Ontario, Canada. It is reported that her fiance died of tuberculosis and that she never recovered from that trauma. "On the Cross of Calvary" first appeared in the initial issue of the Salvation Army’s Musical Salvationist in July of 1866. The author was not listed at the beginning, but in the 1931 San Francisco, CA, issue of Salvation Army magazine The War Cry, Thomas W. Scott credited the song to Graham, who had died around 1889. The tune is sometimes attributed to William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921). However, he is not identified as the composer in either the Musical Salvationist or Good News in Song, but was later said to have arranged it in 1906.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1923 Choice Gospel Hymns edited by Thomas B. Mosley; the 1927 Sweeter Than All Songs edited by C. M. Pullias; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal and the 1960 Hymnal both edited by Marion Davis; and the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by Will W. Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song emphasizes several facts related to what happened on the cross.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the shedding of Jesus’s blood
"On the cross of Calvary, Jesus died for thee and me;
There He shed His precious blood, That from sin we might be free.
O, the cleansing stream doth flow, And it washes white as snow:
It was for me that Jesus died On the cross of Calvary."
 A. Calvary is the Latin name for the hill Golgotha upon which Jesus died for us: Lk. 23:33
 B. It was there that Jesus shed His blood for the remission of our sins: Matt. 26:28
 C. As a result of this cleansing stream, those who come to Christ can be washed as white as snow: Isa. 1:18

II. Stanza 2 talks about the demonstation of God’s love
"O what wondrous, wondrous love Brought me down at Jesus’ feet!
O such wondrous, dying love Asks a sacrifice complete!
Lord, I give myself to Thee, Soul and body Thine to be:
It was for me Thy blood was shed On the cross of Calvary."
 A. In the death of Christ for sinners God demonstrated His wondrous love: Rom. 5:8
 B. However, such wondrous love asks us in turn to present ourselves a living sacrifice to God: Rom. 12:1-2
 C. Therefore, we must give ourselves wholly to Him, living Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength: Mk. 12:29-30

III. Stanza 3 talks about the cleansing from sin that is available
"Take me, Jesus, I am Thine, Wholly Thine forevermore.
Blessed Jesus, Thou are mine; Dwell within forevermore.
Cleanse, O cleanse my heart from sin; Make and keep me pure within:
It was for this Thy blood was shed On the cross of Calvary."
 A. In order to have the blessings of God’s love, we must let Jesus take us so that we can be wholly His in obedience to His will: Heb. 5:8-9
 B. Only when we do this can we expect Him to be ours and dwell within our hearts by faith: Eph. 3:17
 C. And only then will He cleanse our hearts from sin as He did David: Ps. 51:7-11

IV. Stanza 4 talks about the suffering that Jesus experienced for our freedom
"Clouds and darkness veiled the sky When the Lord was crucified;
‘It is finished,’ was His cry When He bowed His dead and died.
It was finished there for me; All the world may now go free:
It was for me that Jesus died On the cross of Calvary."
 A. While Jesus was on the cross being crucified, clouds and darkness veiled the sky: Mk. 15:33
 B. When He died, Jesus said, "It is finished," because that is what He came to do–finish God’s scheme of redemption for us: Jn. 17:4
 C. Because it was finished, the whole world may now be free from sin: Rom. 6:17-18

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the fact that it was on Calvary that Jesus died for each one of us.
"On Calvary, on Calvary,
It was for me that Jesus died On the Cross of Calvary."
In many churches it is a custom to sing a song before the Lord’s supper that is specifically designed to prepare the minds of the worshippers for partaking of the divine feast. This song has often been used for such a purpose, and it is a good one to do so, since the communion is a time when we especially need to remember that Jesus died for us "On the Cross of Calvary."


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