Posted by: rcottrill | March 2, 2012

Lead Me to Calvary

Words: Jennie Evelyn Hussey (b. Feb. 8, 1874; d. Sept. 5:1958)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; Sept. 20, 1921)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This is a twentieth century gospel song, having been published in 1921. And if you’ve ever tried singing through the alphabet–as I’ve done many times, driving along in the car–you know it’s difficult to think of a hymn beginning with the letter “k.” Miss Hussey has solved our problem with “King of my life I crown Thee now.”

Jennie Hussey’s life was solitary and difficult. She spent hours each day caring for an invalid sister, and also battled with painful, crippling arthritis. Yet she maintained a bright, cheerful attitude through it all.

Her family, going back many generations, had been Quakers (members of the Society of Friends). But Jennie chose to identify with the Baptists. When she requested believer’s baptism at First Baptist Church, in Concord, New Hampshire, she said to the pastor, “I’ve spent much of my life hidden away in the country, and I’d like to have the opportunity, before God takes me home, to tell everybody, ‘I love Jesus.’”

One way Jennie did that is through the many hymns she wrote. And this particular one seemed to grow itself, in an unusual way. One day, when the painful trial of her arthritis was almost beyond endurance, she prayed, “Please, Lord, make me willing to bear my cross daily, without complaining, because You bore Yours for me.” She then set down that prayer in lines of verse that would later become (CH-4) of our hymn:

May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share,
Thou hast borne all for me.

In the next few days, she added CH-2 and 3, about the garden tomb, and about Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb on resurrection morning. “May I be willing…show me…let me…” It was only after composing these stanzas of petition and humble submission that Jennie Hussey added the triumphant opening stanza of personal commitment:

King of my life, I crown Thee now,
Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget Thy thorn crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

The Lord Jesus spoke to His followers about cross-bearing many times (as described in CH-4, above). In fact, the first reference to the cross in the New Testament (Matt. 10:38) concerns, not the cross of Jesus, but the cross of those who believe on Him. The last reference to the cross (the cross of Christ, in this case) is instructive as to its spiritual meaning:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Here we see the Saviour’s determination to do the will of His heavenly Father, in spite of the terrible cost, looking forward to the blessings that lay ahead. Think of how that applies to us.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Lk. 9:23-24; cf. Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34; 10:21; Lk. 14:27).

The believers of that day were all too familiar with the cruel form of execution used by the Romans. It was the practice to have a condemned criminal take up his cross and carry it to the place of execution. It identified him to the passing throng as a law-breaker.

For Christians to metaphorically take up the cross, in the sense Jesus uses the expression, means we will openly identify ourselves as followers of Christ, committing ourselves with what William MacDonald calls “devoted abandonment” to live for Him, whatever the cost.

1) What would be the opposite of taking up the cross, as it is explained here?

2) Why is it important to keep the cross of Christ in view as we too take up the cross?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Suggested additional 2nd stanza:

    Show me the cross of Calvary
    On which Thy blood was shed
    Thy precious blood did save my soul
    My debt of sin was paid

    What do you think?

    • I like it. It adds an important point–the why of Calvary. But… As a former college English teacher, let me get fussy for a moment. The rhyming scheme Jennie Hussey chose is: a-b-a-b. In other words, the first line should rhyme with the third, and the second line should rhyme with the fourth (e.g. stanza 2: laid, arrayed; wept, slept). Here’s what I mean–though if I took some time I think I could do better with the last line :-). I was thinking of Ephesians 2:1, 5.

      Show me the cross of Calvary,
      On which Thy blood was shed;
      You paid the price of sin for me,
      Raising me from the dead.

      • Wow thanks! I did not notice the abab rhyming style.

        Hope you like piano backing track for this hymn:

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  2. Thought about it over the last few days:

    Show me the cross of Calvary
    On which Thy blood was shed
    Thy precious blood avails for me
    My debt of sin was paid

    Maybe one day this might make it to a hymn book, God willing.

  3. I like your suggested version too.

  4. One more version based on yours

    Show me the cross of Calvary
    On which Thy blood was shed
    Thy precious blood avails for me
    Quickened me from the dead

    • Well done indeed! I may just use “our verse” 🙂 at our Good Friday service.


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