holding-hands.jpg This week in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth I’ve picked one that stands, in a fashion, as an antidote to one of my posts this past week On Being Lost. With words by Jo­seph H. Gil­more in 1862 and music by Wil­liam B. Brad­bu­ry in 1864, He Leadeth Me has been a longtime favorite for many, and provides some quiet comfort for the journey. In case it wasn’t obvious, the 23rd Psalm is indeed the background for this hymn. Gilmore recounts,

As a young man who re­cent­ly had been grad­u­at­ed from Brown Un­i­ver­si­ty and New­ton The­o­lo­gic­al In­sti­tu­tion, I was sup­ply­ing for a cou­ple of Sun­days the pul­pit of the First Bap­tist Church in Phil­a­del­phia [Penn­syl­van­ia]. At the mid-week ser­vice, on the 26th of March, 1862, I set out to give the peo­ple an ex­po­si­tion of the Twen­ty-third Psalm, which I had giv­en be­fore on three or four oc­ca­sions, but this time I did not get fur­ther than the words “He Lead­eth Me.” Those words took hold of me as they had ne­ver done be­fore, and I saw them in a sig­ni­fi­cance and won­drous beau­ty of which I had ne­ver dreamed.

It was the dark­est hour of the Ci­vil War. I did not re­fer to that fact—that is, I don’t think I did—but it may sub­con­sciou­sly have led me to real­ize that God’s lead­er­ship is the one sig­nif­i­cant fact in hu­man ex­per­i­ence, that it makes no dif­fer­ence how we are led, or whi­ther we are led, so long as we are sure God is lead­ing us.

At the close of the meet­ing a few of us in the par­lor of my host, good Dea­con Watt­son, kept on talk­ing about the thought which I had em­pha­sized; and then and there, on a blank page of the brief from which I had in­tend­ed to speak, I pen­ciled the hymn, talk­ing and writ­ing at the same time, then hand­ed it to my wife and thought no more about it. She sent it to The Watch­man and Re­flect­or, a pa­per pub­lished in Bos­ton, where it was first print­ed. I did not know un­til 1865 that my hymn had been set to mu­sic by Will­iam B. Brad­bu­ry. I went to Ro­ches­ter [New York] to preach as a can­di­date be­fore the Se­cond Bap­tist Church. Go­ing in­to their cha­pel on ar­riv­al in the ci­ty, I picked up a hymn­al to see what they were sing­ing, and opened it at my own hymn, “He Lead­eth Me.”

What an odd experience that must have been. Now of course, the hymn itself…

He Leadeth Me

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, over troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.


Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.


And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.


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