Some songs are composed in a sudden gush of inspiration. But others spring from a deep well of personal experience. The song “Abide with Me” is one of those. It was written by an Anglican pastor named Henry Lyte who knew what it means to abide with Jesus in life’s darkest moments.
For almost 25 years, Lyte had pastored the blue collar sailor families of Devonshire, England, in spite of his poor health. Finally, his tuberculosis and other ailments became intolerable, and doctors instructed him to move to a milder climate. In 1847, Lyte prepared for his final sermon. Some friends begged him not to preach, warning that his health was simply too poor. But on September 4, 1847, with the help of his parishioners, Henry Lyte ascended to his pulpit for the last time.
As Lyte stood, he said, “Oh, brethren, I stand here before you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress upon you and get you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all. I plead with you to become acquainted with the changeless Christ and His death.” As the sermon concluded, amid great tears, Lyte celebrated one final communion with his flock, and then left for France where he died from a seizure soon after.
During those final days in Devonshire, Lyte wrote one of our most treasured hymns, “Abide with Me.” It was composed by a man who knew the shortness of life, the pain of suffering, and the comfort of Jesus Christ. The final verse is a wonderful prayer of hope: “Hold Thou Thy word before my closing eyes. Shine thru the gloom and point me to the skies; heav’n’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee—In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Stained by blood, sweat, and tears, such hymns have withstood the test of time and are still worthy of our worship services today. A band called Page CXVI (‘one-sixteen’) is arranging these great hymns of the faith into a fresh, new style for a younger generation. We invite you to hear their music at First Southern Baptist on Friday, May 14. Our free BBQ begins at 6 pm. Please join us.
This article first appeared as a Minister’s Message in our local newspaper, the Hi Desert Star.
Photo credit: mondays child