Abide With Me Hymn
This is The Hymn of the Week with Dr. Larry Frazier—presenting the good news in song, combining faith and everyday experience. There is a certain drama wherever sea and land meet.
In southwest England, where the isle of Great Britain begins to narrow into a peninsula, gently rolling hills and quiet streams merge into natural, deep harbors leading to the well-traveled wilderness of the sea. Death is never far from this scene. For centuries, lifeboats have continually sprung from these harbors to rescue those needing help.
In 1847, the minister of a small Anglican church in Lower Brixham, Devonshire, England, wrote a beautiful hymn of faith and yearning for the presence of God as he faced an awareness of the nearness of his own death. The bells of his church continue to daily ring out the melody of this comforting hymn—Abide With Me, this week’s Hymn of the Week.
Click below for the Abide With Me lyrics.
Abide With Me: Hymn of the Week Radio Show Episode
Reading of the text for Abide With Me
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.
Background of the Abide With Me Hymn
Henry Francis Lyte was born in Scotland in 1793 and spent most of his childhood in an orphanage. He had a keen intellect, attending Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, with the intent of becoming a physician; however his scholarly interest in theology and English Poetry together with his strong personal faith led to his ordination as an Anglican minister in 1815.
He was appointed pastor of All Saints Church of Lower Brixham, Devonshire, in 1824, serving there for thirty years until weeks before his death from tuberculosis in 1847. The scholarly, poetic Henry Lyte, of fragile health and bothered by asthma, was a kind and compassionate man, an excellent and beloved pastor who gave himself wholeheartedly in service to the simple folk of the small fishing community.
He found time to write two books of religious poetry and dozens of hymns, the two most famous being Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven and Abide With Me, which he completed just three weeks before his death.
Henry Francis Lyte’s poem Ere the Night Fall gives insight into his life and ministry and states his dying wish as follows.
Why do I sigh to find Life’s evening shadows gathering round my way, The keen eye dimming, and the buoyant mind unhinging day by day?
I want not vulgar fame—I seek not to survive in brass and stone! Hearts may not kindle when they hear my name, Nor tears my value own: But might I leave behind some blessing for my fellows, some fair trust To guide, to cheer, to elevate my kind, when I am in the dust; Might verse of mine inspire One virtuous aim, one high resolve impart, Light in one drooping soul a hallowed fire, Or bind one broken heart; Death would be sweeter then, more calm my slumber ‘neath the silent sod—Might I thus live to bless my fellow-men, Or glorify my God! O Thou whose touch can lend Life to the dead, Thy quickening grace supply, And grant me, swanlike, my last breath to spend in song that may not die!
Lyte's Dying Wish Fulfilled
This dying wish is indeed fulfilled in Abide With Me, a favorite hymn of Mohandas Ghandi, sung at the royal weddings of King George VI and his daughter who became current Queen Elizabeth II, at the funeral of Mother Teresa, and, over 150 years after his death, rung daily by the bells of his beloved All Saints Church in Lower Brixham.
Though Henry F. Lyte also wrote a serviceable tune for Abide With Me, it was the influential King’s College singing teacher and organist William Henry Monk, who discovered Lyte’s hymn in 1861 as he was editing material for the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, perhaps the most popular and influential collection of hymns ever published.
Monk’s wife wrote that the tune and harmony were written by her husband “at a time of great sorrow” immediately after they watched a beautiful sunset together. Born in 1823, William H. Monk was a most important music figure in London and a prolific composer of hymn tunes, including Coronae (sung with Look Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious), Gethsemane (sung with Go to Dark Gethsemane and Colyton (sung with On Our Way Rejoicing) with its first line of melody reminiscent of On Britannia!, as well as a number of hymn tune arrangements and harmonizations.
His greatest contribution to hymnbook may well be his service as first musical editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, but his music for Abide With Me has continued to be the favorite of millions. Monk died in 1889, just shy of his 66th birthday.
Devotion or Scripture Related to the Hymn
Listen to these words from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24, verses 28-32, which are closely reflected in the opening stanza of William Frances Lyte’s, Abide With Me: As they came near the village to which they were going, he (the resurrected Jesus) walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
From the website of All Saints Church, Brixham is a simple, inspiring message reminding us to be attentive to the needs of all those living among us who need help.
Living where we do we often hear the Maroons go up and there will be a mad dash to launch the Lifeboat from the harbour. This means that somebody somewhere needs help. You may not hear them, but you will certainly hear the sirens from police, ambulance or Fire service. When you do, just stop and offer a prayer. Offer one for those who need emergency help, one for the brave rescuers and one for whoever it was who made the call. It will only take a few seconds, but you will have done your bit for all of them.”
Dear Lord, Abide With Me, and enable us to “do our bit” for all who need help. Amen!
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Hymn of the Week. Tune in again next week when we will consider another great hymn.
Until then, this is your host, Dr. Larry Frazier…
Goodbye and Keep Singing!