abide with me 2

I remember the first time that I realized that “Abide With Me” was really based on the disciples on the Road to Emmaus who get to their homes not knowing that Jesus was with them all along and they say “Abide with us, fact falls the eventide”.  I have always loved the hymn.

It seems even more fitting that we sang “Abide with Me” at Dean Hartley’s funeral after reading the history of the hymn written by Richard Niell  Donovan.  You can hear a portion of the hymn by going to …….



Abide  with Me

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) was  an Anglican clergyman who served nearly half his life as vicar of a church at  Brixham, a fishing village in Devonshire, on the southwest coast of England (he  died at the age of 54, and served that congregation for 24 years).

Lyte had shown promise as a poet  even as a child, and wrote religious poetry and hymns throughout his life.  However, it was only near the end of his life  that he wrote the hymn that would make him famous –– “Abide with Me.”


During the last years of his life,  Lyte suffered from tuberculosis, the disease that would eventually take his  life.  A few weeks before his death, he  preached his last sermon at Brixham.  He  rested that afternoon, and upon arising took a walk on the beach.  He then retired to his study, and emerged  with his poem, “Abide with Me,” in his hand.

It seems clear that death was on  his mind as he took his walk that afternoon.   He was leaving the Brixham congregation because his poor health would no  longer permit him to carry on an active ministry there.  It must have been clear to him that he was  dying.  And so he wrote:

“Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;   The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide;

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,   Help of the helpless, O abide with me.”


The poem is lovely in both  language and sentiment –– but it seems odd that a hymn about death could become  as popular as this one.  But on closer  observation, the reason seems clear.   This hymn speaks to us, not only about death, but also about life.  It assures us of God’s presence and help in  life and in death.  As it says in the  last line of the last verse:


“In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”


“In life, in death!” It  is not just in death that we need the Lord, but in life as well.  And so, when we sing this hymn, we repeat  again and again, “Abide with me” –– a prayer for God’s presence and a  prayer for God’s help.


–– Copyright 2007, Richard Niell  Donovan