“But they urged him strongly,
‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’
So he went in to stay with them.”
Luke 24:29 (NIV)
Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, in 1815 with arts and divinity degrees. Although he had studied theology, his heart was not gripped by the message of the Carpenter of Nazareth. All historians agree he was a gifted poet.
One day he visited a fellow minister who lay dying. The dying man sought to persuade Lyte that they had not taken the theology of the apostle Paul seriously enough. Lyte was spoken to by the man’s urgent pleading and soon he was preaching the evangelical Gospel he formerly ridiculed.
Lyte was a sickly man all his adult life and frequently was forced to go to France and Italy for months at a time where the weather was milder. His health would partially return and back to England he would go for another tour of duty.
In the summer of 1847 he preached for the last time to his congregation. The text was 1 Corinthians 11:26. His plan was to go to Nice, France, and rest once more in order to recuperate and return again to his people. That evening he witnessed a beautiful sunset and his thoughts centered on Luke 24:29. The hymn he is best known for flowed from his prolific pen that evening and, in part, is as follows:
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.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.