Hymn History ~ He Leadeth Me

DSCN1210Today I thought I would write about another one of my favourite hymns — He Leadeth Me. It was also written by William Bradbury, who you may remember from my post last week, on the hymn, Saviour Like A Shepherd Lead Us. This is a beautiful hymn, and has a wonderful, intriguing story behind the writing of it.

Ironically, it was also written during one of my favourite times in American history, the time of the War Between the States.

He Leadeth Me

Written by Joseph H. Gilmore

Composed by William Bradbury

Tune: He Leadeth Me

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
What e’er I do, where e’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, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis His 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.

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.

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.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 1863, a fierce battle of the War of Northern Aggression was being fought, the Battle of Glouetta Pass in the Midwest. The Union army had attempted to wipe out the Confederate forces, and do away with the entire Confederate army. The Confederates, however, found out about the planned attack by sovereignty of God, planned one of their own, and won a decisive southern victory.

That same day, a twenty eight year old young man wrote the text for what would later be known as a beloved hymn. His name was Joseph H. Gilmore. He wrote to a friend :

“As a young man who had recently been graduated from Brown University and Newton Theological Seminary, I was supplying for a couple of Sundays the pulpit of a first baptist church in Philadelphia. At the mid-week service, on the twenty-sixth of March, 1862, I set out to give the people an exposition on the twenty-third Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get any father 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, just 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 Watson, 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 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 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’.

“When I returned home I related this experience to my wife.

“‘I do not understand it.’ I said. ‘My words have been set to music by Dr. William Bradbury; yet I have not given the words to anybody.’ My wife smiled and said, ‘I can explain it Joseph. I felt the words would bless the hearts of people in these troublesome times, so I sent the poem to ‘The Watchman and Reflector‘. I am glad to know that they have printed it.'”

Joseph Henry Gilmore was born April 29, 1834, in Boston, Massachusetts. His father moved the family to New Hampshire, and later became the governor. Mr. Joseph Gilmore graduated from Newton Theological Institute in 1861, and was asked to fill the place of the professor of Hebrew, which he did from 1861 – 1862. He was a Baptist minister and pastored churches in Fisherville and Rochester, New Hampshire. He died July 23, 1918, at the age of 84 years.

This may be shared with: Roses of Inspiration, The Art of Home-making Monday’s, Monday’s Musings

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