Hymn Story: Abide With Me

The popular hymn “Abide with Me” was written by pastor Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) just before he died of tuberculosis. The title of the hymn is taken from Luke 24:29, when those who walked with Christ on the road to Emmaus said, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.

The hymn was sung for the first time at his funeral, and it has been sung in Christian homes, churches, and at countless funerals ever since. May it be a comfort to you as you think on the richness of its lyrics and on He who abides with us even in our darkest hours.

Here is a story from Carl Price’s One Hundred and One Hymn Stories about how this hymn came to be:

The spirit of the walk of Christ with the disciples to Emmaus at eventide is reproduced in the hymn, “Abide with Me.” This has been sung at the close of many a day, and, indeed, of many a Christian life, as believers have uttered it as a prayer for the presence of Christ.

It was composed one Sabbath evening in 1847 out of a deep sadness that had settled down upon its author, the Rev. Henry F. Lyte. He had conducted his last communion service that day at the close of a pastorate of twenty-four years at Brixham, England. A fatal illness had already seized him and he was about to leave England to prolong his life, if possible, in the South.

Toward evening he walked down his garden path to the seaside and there thought out the imagery and many of the lines of his famous hymn. Into this he has woven the sense of change and of helplessness that one must feel in the presence of death, and also the trustful dependence upon Jesus Christ, the “Help of the helpless,” which every true Christian must feel in that solemn hour.

Returning to his home, he wrote out the hymn, perfecting its lines and giving to the Christian world one of its tenderest prayer-hymns. He left at once for the south of France, and soon after his arrival in Nice his strength failed him, and whispering the words, “Peace! Joy!” while he was pointing his hand heavenward, he died.

“Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!”

The Lyrics to 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 terror, 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, thus abide 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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