At the Cross

Isaac Watts. 1674 -1748

refrain by Ralph Hudson

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!  

A few years out of college, I was angry with the world, and God had been silent so long I was sure he was angry with me. Early one Sunday evening I paced my apartment until the walls closed in. Then I walked briskly around the block, once, twice. On the third time around I saw a middle-aged black man climbing the steps of a small red-brick church about which I knew nothing except what was evident from the sign: The Fire Baptized Holiness Church.

Wearing patched jeans and flip-flops, I asked the man if I would be welcome. "Anyone can come to church," he answered. And I "walked through the sanctuary door, flanked by white-gloved women passing out paper fans printed with Martin Luther King profiles.

As I slipped into a back row, a young girl dressed in starch pointed at me. "She can't stay here; she's got pants on."

The shushing mother smiled at me. "Of course she can." I was  welcome, albeit a curiosity. As was the service to me. It started with fifteen minutes of fervent prayer around the altar. I stayed in my seat, contemplating the words painted on the wall-—-"I am the way, the truth, and the life"-—-and silently praying my anger: "But where are you, God.?"

Then singing—"Everything's all right, in my Father's house." Over and over and over. A dance of blessing. Up and down the aisles. Jumping till the pews shook.

And testimonies, most confessing unfaithfulness yet thanking God for Ms faithfulness.

More songs—and with no hymnbooks (no hymn racks!), overheads, or handouts. Everyone knew all the verses.

"Leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms." I sang along and kept praying. God, come to me as you have come to them. Nothing happened. See it doesn't work for me, I finally shrugged.

But then God broke through—-with the old, out-of-fashion words of Isaac Watts, sung in slow, deliberate, half-time:

Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?

And the refrain, not by Britisher Watts, but by American evangelist Ralph Hudson: "At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, / And the burden of my heart rolled away." At that word, my burden of anger lifted as I anticipated the next lines, sung by the Fire Baptized: "It was there by faith I received my sight, / And now I am happy all the day!"

We blessed singers went on and on-—-repeating verses and refrains.Where was God? "The way, the truth, and the life" was not only painted on the wall, he was not only "a worm" nailed on a cross (see Psalm 22), he was with me and within me, and eager to let his presence be known as I humbled myself at his bleeding feet.

God doesn't restrict his blessing to those who dance down the church aisles. If you're burdened with anger or feehng God's absence, try meeting him at the cross. Loosen your pack and let him rip it off.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28, 30).

Lord, at the foot of your cross I drop my burden of angerjust drop it. Release it. Let me walk away with a new yoke that is easy to wear, light with grace.

From the book "Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns" by Evelyn Bence.


Now look all you God's Sabbath/Festival observers, if some Protestant church [with their errors of theology, but they do know Jesus at the cross for our salvation, is true] can get all fired up in singing "At the Cross" by Isaac Watts, then it should be even more so, for us, who have been blessed with additional theology truths of God's word.

Passover should be a special time to sing to this spiritual hymn, with gusto and maybe a few tears for the truth it contains.

Keith Hunt