Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), the author of the words to this hymn, became blind at 6 weeks of age because of a harmful treatment applied by a country doctor. As she grew, she exhibited a keen memory and the ability to rhyme. She went on to write at least 9,000 spiritual poems, many of which have been set to music. Most of these were gospel songs—songs of religious experience—but this one is a notable exception. It is a hymn of praise to God in strong, majestic language. It first appeared in Hymns and Tunes, the Seventh-day Adventist hymnal published in 1886, where it bore the copyright notice of James Edson White, Ellen White’s second son, who was a publisher of music and books. Most of Fanny Crosby’s works were copyrighted by a large Chicago firm, so this one, with J. E. White’s copyright, is unusual. While this song has appeared in seven hymnbooks published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it has been published in only two hymnbooks outside of our church. So this hymn, which some consider to be one of Fanny Crosby’s best, has been an almost exclusive possession of Seventh-day Adventists.
The tune was composed by Hart Pease Danks (1834-1903), an American carpenter who had a keen interest in music. Danks wrote more than 1,000 songs, including the music for “No Night There,” which appears in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (#427).
Fanny Crosby also wrote the words for this hymn. One day when she needed money sooner than she could get some from her publisher, a friend came to her door and gave her $5, the very amount she needed. Her thinking about this experience led to her writing the words of this hymn about God’s leading. When first printed, the hymn bore the heading, “So the Lord Alone Did Lead Him” (see Deut. 32:12).
Fanny Crosby sent this poem to Robert Lowry (1826-1899), whom she had met about nine years earlier and whom she often consulted about the phrasing of a hymn. Lowry composed the music specifically for these words. The tune now bears his name.
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