Hymn #224: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) based this hymn on Galatians 6:14 and intended it as a hymn for Holy Communion, giving it the title "Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ."  Many hymnologists believe this to be one of the finest hymns ever written in the English language.

 

Isaac Watts became severely ill in 1712 and was invited to live at the home of Thomas Abney, a former lord mayor of London and a member of Watts's congregation.  Watts's health never full improved, and he remained there for the last thirty-six years of his life.

Lowell Mason (1792-1872) arranged this melody in 1825 from a Gregorian chant (tone I) and named it HAMBURG.  It was first published in his Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music (1825), the highly successful collection that allowed Mason to devote the rest of his career to music.

 

Lowell Mason, a sixth-generation New Englander, was descended from English forebears who landed in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630.  Life his father and grandfather, he was born in Medfield, Massachusetts, and he spent the first twenty years of his life there.