Words: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: Whittle, by May Whittle Moody (b. Mar. 20, 1870; Aug. 20, 1963)
Note: May Whittle Moody was Daniel Whittle’s daughter, who married William Moody, the son of evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Mrs. Moody composed the tunes for a number of her father’s later songs. As the first Wordwise Hymns link shows, the inspiration for this song grew out of a criticism of another gospel song (a fine song, in its place).
Daniel Whittle was a unique servant of the Lord. A Civil War hero, who lost an arm in the Battle of Vicksburg, Major Whittle later became and effective evangelist and a hymn writer. Here, in his own words, is how he first met Dwight Moody a century and a half ago.
“A big meeting of some kind was being held in the Tabernacle, and with some help I was able to attend, although I was still weak from loss of blood and with my arm in a sling. I was called upon to speak, and as I got slowly to my feet, feeling shy and embarrassed and weak, a strong voice called out, ‘Give him three cheers, boys!’ And they were given with a will, for every heart was bursting with patriotism in those days, and the sight of a wounded soldier in a blue uniform stirred the blood. And how that kindly thought and ringing cheer stirred my blood! How grateful I was to them. And the one who called out, ‘Give him three cheers!’ was Dwight L. Moody.”
Of the two dozen uses of the word “moment” in our English Bibles, most refer to the brevity of life, and the suddenness of God’s judgment (e.g. Exod. 33:5). But there are a couple of exceptions to this that are worth noting.
☼ When the Lord speaks of the future restoration of the nation of Israel, He compares her to a fruitful vineyard that He waters “every moment” (Isa. 27:2-3). The Hebrew word for moment there is rega, meaning in the blink of an eye, there giving the idea of constantly.
☼ When the New Testament refers to the coming resurrection, we are told it will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:51-52). There, the Greek word for “moment” is atomos, signifying the tiniest possible instant of time.
Take these thoughts, and apply them to the refrain of Major Whittle’s song: “Moment by moment I’m kept in His love.” Constantly, even down to the tiniest fraction of time, moment by moment, God’s children are kept securely in His love. And nothing can separate us from it (Rom. 8:35-39). The Saviour intercedes for us on the throne (Heb. 7:25), and He is, as the KJV puts it, “touched with the feeling of our infirmities [He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses]” (Heb. 4:14-16).
CH-2) Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I’m under His care.
CH-3) Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.
Is that not a cheering message! What a wonderful Saviour we have!
A couple of final notes. Whittle uses the word “weal,” in CH-4, saying that the Lord is with us “in woe or in weal.” The latter word means happiness or well-being. So he’s saying that God is present and at work in our lives, in both the bad times and the good.
Second, the opening line of the hymn may be somewhat obscure. “Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine.” The Major means that when we put our faith in Christ, we are, in effect reckoning or counting His death to be our own. The reason we are no longer under God’s condemnation as Christians is that we paid the price for our sins in Christ, on Calvary.
There is actually a past, present, and future of our salvation alluded to in the first stanza.
In the past, we were reckoned to have died in Christ. (“I have been crucified with Christ,” says Paul, Gal. 2:20). In the present, the life of Christ is being revealed in us, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are “living with Jesus, a new life divine.” “Christ lives in me, “says Paul in Galatians 2:20. As to the future, we look forward to eternal glory with Christ, when He presents us to Himself, “a glorious church” (Eph. 5:27). We belong to Him, and He cares for us, every moment.
CH-1) Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
1) What does the truth of this hymn mean to you today, in a practical sense?
2) How might you be able to encourage someone, during the coming week, with the truths expressed in this hymn?