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Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)
Note: As to Ira Sankey’s tune, Alfred Smith, in Living Hymns, provides an altered version that I think is perhaps more singable.
Hymn books sometimes list the author of this hymn as Lyman G. Cuyler, but this is one of an astonishing 204 pen names used by Fanny Crosby! Others used pen names too, but no one came even close to adopting this many. Here are a few of Fanny’s, listed in Bernard Ruffin’s biography of the great gospel song writer, called simply Fanny Crosby (p. 105).
Fanny Van Alstyne (her married name), Carrie Hawthorne, Carrie Bell, Louise W. Tilden, Lillian G. Frances, Grace Frances, Leah Carleton, Mr. Edna Forest, Mrs. Kate Smiling, Mrs. L. C. Prentice, Maud Marion, Cora Adrienne, Minnie B. Lowry, Ryan A. Dykes, Alice Armstrong, Alice Monteith, H. N. Lincoln, Frank Gould, Catherine Bethune, Sallie Martin, Rose Atherton, Eleanor Craddock, Flora Dayton.
The question may well be raised as to why she did this. Was it simply a humorous whim? Maybe. Was it a matter of modesty–since she wrote about 8,500 hymns. Maybe that. But I think there may have been a practical reason why publishers (subtly guileful) encouraged this practice. Some song books that were published contained so many of Miss Crosby’s creations it looked as though they had no other source for their songs. But seeing a hymn by Lyman Cuyler, and others attributed to those listed above, helped to avoid that.
The present song was likely inspired by the words of Psalm 121.
“Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore” (Ps. 121:4-8).
CH-1) He, who safely keepeth, slumbers not, nor sleepeth;
Though by all the world forsaken, wherefore should I fear?
That which He hath spoken never can be broken;
Who shall harm the trusting heart when He is near?
Various forms of the word “keep” are found in the book of Psalms some 62 times, in our English Bibles. Sometimes it refers to keeping God’s commandments. But in many of the psalms, the speaker (David or another) is going through some severe trial, or facing some threatening danger. The keeping power of the Lord is a great assurance in such times.
The Hebrew word used (shamar) has the sense of guard, protect, and preserve. Here are a few examples.
¤ “Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them. Keep [guard, protect and preserve] me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings (Ps. 17:7-8).
¤ “Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You” (Ps. 25:19-20).
¤ “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:9-11).
¤ “Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble” (Ps. 140:4).
¤ “My eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 141:8-9).
CH-2) He will keep me ever, where no pow’r can sever
From my heart, the love that hides me, in His secret place.
There in faith abiding, all to Him confiding,
Through His spirit I am sealed an heir of grace.
CH-3 He will keep me ever; like a gentle river
Peace from Him, my Lord and Saviour, comes with joy to me;
In its quiet flowing, life and health bestowing,
Till within the gates of pearl the King I see!
1) What are some things from which you need the Lord’s protection, today?
2) What are some important ways you can arm yourself against these dangers or difficulties?