“Light of the Cross”

“I am the light of the world…” (Jn. 8:12)

     INTRO.: A song which pictures Jesus Christ as the Light of the world is “Light of the Cross” (#323 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Robinson, about whom no further information seems available. The tune was composed by Bentley DeForest Ackley (1872-1958). Other tunes by Ackley in our books include those for James Rowe’s “Just Outside the Door,” “I Walk with the King,” and “I Would Be Like Jesus,” William Poole’s “Sunrise,” and Eliza E. Hewitt’s “Somebody Else Needs a Blessing.” Another collaboration by Robinson and Ackley was “What Shall It Be?” beginning, “What will you do with Jesus?”  The original copyright for “Light of the Cross” is usually given as 1895.  Hymnary.org says that it appeared in that year in Sunshine Songs for Sunday Schools edited by Charles H. Gabriel for Meyer and Bros. of Chicago, IL.

     Ehymns.org, citing Fillmore’s Male Choir as its source, ascribes it to Gabriel under the pseudonym Charlotte G. Homer but with question marks, and this may be due to Gabriel’s owning the original copyright.  In our books, the song is listed as “Copyright, Gospel Advocate Co., 1932,” but this must be a renewal or assignment, because in addition to Sunshine Songs for Sunday School, it also appeared in the 1899 Gospel Herald in Song, in addition to others. 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 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1938 Spiritual Melodies edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater. Today it may be found in Sacred Selections.

     The song identifies some of the blessings that the light of Christ provides for us.

I. Stanza 1 says that it points us to the homeland
“From the cross of Christ uplifted Shines an everlasting light;
By its rays the clouds are rifted Till the homeland is in sight.”
 A. This light is pictured as coming from the cross because that was where Jesus gave His life for us: Eph. 2:16
 B. The clouds represent the darkness of this world: Jn. 3:19
 C. However, the light from the cross rifts the clouds and shows the way to the homeland of eternal life: Matt. 7:13-14

II. Stanza 2 says that it helps to alleviate the cares that come our way
“Every storm that gathers o’er us Adds new luster to its ray;
And the cares that rise before us In its radiance pass away.”
 A. The trials and tribulations of life add new luster to the ray of the cross because by them we learn patience: Jas. 1:2-3
 B. Thus, we learn to cast our cares upon Him who cares for us: 1 Pet. 5:7
 C. These cares pass away in its radiance because we learn that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed: Rom. 8:18

III. Stanza 3 says that it guides us through the tempests of life
“Though the tempest wildly rages, By this Light the way is sure;
And throughout the sweep of ages, It, unshaken, shall endure.”
 A. Trials and tribulations in life are often represented by a tempest that rages wildly: Ps. 107:23-29
 B. However, all through such spiritual tempests, the Light, revealed to us in God’s word, is a lamp to our feet to guide us: Ps. 119:105
 C. In this way, we have help that we might endure to the end: Matt. 24:13

     CONCL.: The chorus praises Christ for the blessings of the light of His cross.
“Blessed Light, Light divine, To the world the rays are streaming;
Hallowed Light, Light of love, From the cross of Christ are beaming.”
It is such a blessing to have light by which we can see in darkness.  Throughout history, mankind has had the light of torches, candles, oil lamps, gas lights, and now electricity. But even more important is that as we make our way through this world of spiritual darkness we have guidance from the “Light of the Cross.”


One thought on ““Light of the Cross”

  1. Good morning! I am the owner of ehymns.org and I found this site as I was looking for more information on this hymn.

    I actually have the book that you referred to (Sacred Selections for the Church), so I looked it up and was glad to see it there. One thing that I wanted to note about it is that Ackley likely did write the music in that book because upon comparison, while there are some similarities, they are not the same. The version from my website also has a longer chorus.

    I thank you for this site, and I am sure it will be a good resource for me in my study of hymns!


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