Words: Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868. The words were published posthumously in the Family Treasury, a Scottish Presbyterian magazine, in 1872, titled Breathing on the Border.
These lines express the experiences, the hopes and the longings of a young Christian lately released. Written on the very edge of life, with the better land fully in view of faith, they seem to us footsteps printed on the sands of time, where these sands touch the ocean of Eternity. These footprints of one whom the Good Shepherd led through the wilderness into rest, may, with God’s blessing, contribute to comfort and direct succeeding pilgrims.
W. Arnot, editor, Family Treasury
The first time this hymn was sung is still fresh in my memory. The morning after I had composed the music the Rev. W. H. Aitkin was to speak at our mission in the great Bow Road Hall, in London, Mr. Moody having made an arrangement to speak at Her Majesty’s Theater.
It was a lovely morning, and a great gathering had assembled at the meeting, which was held at eight o’clock. Before the sermon I sang Beneath the Cross of Jesus as a solo; and as in the case of The Ninety and Nine much blessing came from its use for the first time.
With eyes filled with tears, and deeply moved, the preacher said to the audience:Dear friends, I had intended to speak to you this morning upon work for the Master, but this new hymn has made such an impression on my heart, and evidently upon your own, that I will defer my proposed address and speak to you onThe Cross of Jesus.
The sermon was one of the most powerful I have ever heard, and many souls that morning accepted the message of grace and love. Some years later Mr. Aitkin held many successful meetings in New York and other cities in this country, and he often used this hymn as a solo.
An odd incident occurred in connection with Mr. Aitkin’s use of this hymn in St. Paul’s Church, at Broadway and Wall Street, the money center of America.
A gentleman, having heard this piece sung frequently by great congregations of business men and Wall Street brokers in St. Paul’s Church, called upon the publishers of the small book of words which had been distributed in the church, and said that hewished to secure that beautiful English tune which Mr. Aitkin used so much in his meetings.
When he was told that he could find it in any copy ofGospel Hymnshe became quite indignant, and insisted that it was a fine classic which the great preacher had brought with him from England—nothing like the Moody and Sankey trash!
Having secured a copy of Mr. Aitkin’s hymn book containing thefine English tuneto the beautiful words of Beneath the Cross of Jesus, he went away happy, but only to find that it was written by the author of the music to The Ninety and Nine.
Sankey, pp. 260–62
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
And the burden of the day.
O safe and happy shelter,
O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love
And Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch
That wondrous dream was giv’n,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me,
A ladder up to Heav’n.
There lies beneath its shadow
But on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave
That gapes both deep and wide;
And there between us stands the cross
Two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way
From that eternal grave.
Upon that cross of Jesus
Mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One
Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears
Two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love
And my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine
Than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame,
My glory all the cross.