Behind the Hymn: The Way of the Cross Leads Home
The Way of the Cross Leads Home was written by Jessie B. Pounds.
Jessie Hunter Brown was born on August 31, 1861 in Hiam, Ohio. She is described as having been a “poorly” child in health and was educated at home.
At age 15, she began submitting articles to Cleveland newspapers and various religious publications.
She married John Pounds, a pastor of the Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1906.
In her early years, an editor commented that some of her poetry would make good hymn texts. So began her song writing career. Over her lifetime, she wrote 50 librettos for cantatas and operettas, 9 books, and more than 400 Gospel songs. She collaborated with James Fillmore for three decades.
A memorable phrase is said to come to her, and she would write it down in her notebook. Then maybe a couple months later she would write out the entire hymn.
Most of her hymns were published by the Fillmore Brothers Music Company of Cincinnati, OH. Many of her early efforts are found under her maiden name of Jessie H. Brown.
She also wrote songs such as I Know My Redeemer Liveth, The Touch of His Hand on Mine, There Is Rest for the Weary, Anywhere with Jesus I Can Go Safely, Wonderful Peace, Passing Through the Gate, and Ring the Bells.
She died on March 3, 1921 in Hiram, Ohio. Her husband died four years later.
The music was written by Charles H. Gabriel.
The Way of the Cross Leads Home was first published in Living Praises No. 2 in 1906.
A popular sermon illustration at the time the song was written centered on the geographical heart of London, which is known as Charring Cross or “the cross”. The illustration goes on to say, “A London police officer came upon a lost child who was unable to tell him where he lived. Finally, amid sobs and tears, the child simply said, “If you will take me to the Cross, I think I can find my way home from there”.”
Whether, Mrs. Pounds used this illustration is not known for sure, but it does seem plausible.
Charles L. Gabirel, the composer, “ later wrote that Mrs. Pound’s intention was to give emphasis to the truth, so constantly held up in the teachings of Christ, that heroic Christianity does not follow the line of least resistance. “
In 1934, the copyright was renewed by the Homer A. Rodeheaver Co.
The song fits in with Matthew 16:24, which often accompanies the song in some hymnals “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will comeafter me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
This hymn has been published in almost 200 hymnals.