This hymn was written by Joseph Gilmore who has the following account of how this hymn was written.
As a young man who recently had been graduated from Brown University and Newton Theological Institution, I was supplying for a couple of Sundays the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. At the mid-week service, on the 26th of March, 1862, I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get further 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, 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 Wattson, 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 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 [New York] 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.”
He Leadeth Me is one of my personal favourites. A verse that comes to mine is Pr3:5-6 which says “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” May God lead us through the highways and byways of life till we reach the heavenly gates. Amen.
Lyrics: Joseph H Gilmore
Music: William B Bradbury
He leadeth me! O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’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 foll’wer 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 God’s hand that leadeth me!
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine
Nor ever murmur nor repine
Content, whatever lot I see
Since tis my God that leadeth me!
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee
Since God thru Jordan leadeth me.
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