The words to this hymn are part of a long poem of nine stanzas of eight lines each, written by Joseph Swain and published in 1791. Swain was born in Birmingham, England, in 1761. He became an engraver, but his poetic talent is what brought him lasting notice. In 1782 he became converted through reading the Bible, and soon began writing hymns for his own use. He was baptized the following year, and then started holding prayer and testimony meetings in his own home. By 1791 he was called to preach in Baptist congregations, and was ordained the following year. He became the leader of a church of 27 members in southeast London, and within four years the church had been enlarged three times and the membership grown to more than 200. His health, however, was poor, and he died in 1796, having published hundreds of hymn texts.
The tune "Beloved," or "Dulcimer," was composed in 1813 by Freeman Lewis of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., who was a surveyor as well as a musician. The tune appears to have been derived from an old folk song.
John Page Hopps wrote the words to this hymn in 1876 under the title, "A Child's Prayer for Guidance." Hopps was born in London in 1834 and pastored congregations in Leicestershire and Birmingham in the 1850s. In 1860 he became a Unitarian minister, and he served churches in several localities. He published many books and pamphlets, sermons and lectures. He also compiled several hymnbooks. This poem was published in one of those in 1877. He died in 1911.
The tune, "Posen," was composed by George Christoph Strattner (1650-1704), choirmaster in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, and was published in 1691.
Adapted from Wayne Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988).
SDAH = Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal
CH = Church Hymnal