Hymn Story of the Week: Abide with Me

This week’s hymn story is of the well-known hymn Abide with Me. I fell in love with this hymn after hearing a beautiful recording of it performed by choir, soloist, and orchestra, including the seventh verse (“I fear no foe...”), which I had not heard before.

This beautiful hymn was written by Henry F. Lyte in 1847 as he lay dying of tuberculosis. Lyte was the pastor of All Saints Church in Lower Brixham, Devonshire, England. He preached his farewell sermon at All Saints and wrote the words to the hymn on the same day. His state of mind can be seen in this excerpt from this final sermon:

“O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.”

He departed for Italy, seeking to regain his health. Still on his way to Italy, in Nice, France, Lyte breathed his last breath, only three weeks after writing what is surely one of the most famous hymns in English hymnody. Perhaps the words he had written only three weeks earlier rang in his ears as he left this life: “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still if Thou abide with me.”

The music for this hymn was written by William H. Monk in 1861. His wife described the music’s origin:

“This tune was written at a time of great sorrow—when together we watched, as we did daily, the glories of the setting sun. As the last golden ray faded, he took some paper and penciled that tune which has gone all over the earth.”

So the sorrow of two men, at two separate occasions, combined to give us this treasure, which has comforted many thousands of sorrowing hearts, and will surely comfort many thousands more.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


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