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Abide With Me

Abide With Me

Henry Lyte lived a hard life. Having been sick for a long time, most of his life had been spent dealing with his weakness and poor health.That didn’t stop him from being a man of God, though. Henry gave his life to the church.

In 1818, he was greatly affected by the death of a fellow minister. The experience drew him to his Bible, changing his preaching and his outlook on life.

It was in 1820 that he first began to write his hymn. While visiting another dying friend, he kept hearing him say “Abide with me ... Abide with me ... Abide with me.”

The words stuck with Henry. He recalled the story recorded in Luke 24 where Jesus appeared to two disciples as they traveled on a road out of Jerusalem, shortly after the crucifixion. As the resurrected Jesus joined them, He began to  explain the scriptures and they begged Him to stay at the end of the day. “Abide with us,” they said.

Nearly 30 years later, Henry was now the one who was dying. He asked to preach one more sermon. His frail body held up long enough and when he finished, he reached into his pocket and handed the copy of his hymn to a nearby relative.

He died days later on November 27, 1847. The song that found its birth at his friend’s death was sung for the first time at his own funeral. It is an appropriate setting for a somber hymn that talks of the presence of Christ at every turn of life.

It is often played at memorial services and it was most famously performed by the orchestra of the Titanic as she slipped beneath the sea. It is found in nearly every English language hymnal and it is as powerful and emotive today as it was two hundred years ago.

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