Posted by: rcottrill | May 31, 2010

Today in 1680 – Joachim Neander Died

Mr. Neander was a school principal and lay preacher. He enjoyed wandering the valley near his home, exploring its many waterfalls and caves. Early in the 19th century, one cave was named Neander’s Cave. (There’s a local tradition that he actually lived in it for some months.) And the surrounding valley came to be called Neander Valley. In 1856 the bones of an ancient man were found there and he was dubbed the Neanderthal Man. Joachim Neander thus holds the distinction of being the only hymn writer to have a fossil named after him! He died at the age of 30 of tuberculosis.

Though he wrote about 60 hymns, few remain in use today. One that does is Catherine Winkworth’s English translation of Neander’s hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, reflecting the Bible’s command, “Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent [unequaled, surpassing] greatness” (Ps. 150:2). The hymn says, in part:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

(2) Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Data Missing)
The Israelites were commanded, “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast [keep close] to Him” (Deut. 13:4). As those words suggest, there is a link between closeness to God and adhering to the precepts of His Word. In a psalm we read, “I cling to Your testimonies [referring to God’s laws]” (Ps. 119:31). King David wrote of God, “My soul follows close behind You” (Ps. 63:8). It is a poetic picture of faith and obedience, and of intimate fellowship.

A longing for that kind of relationship should infuse the heart of each child of God. If we truly love Him, we should want to walk with Him in ever closer friendship and fellowship. That desire is expressed in an old Spiritual whose exact origins have been lost in the mists of time. Just a Closer Walk With Thee was possibly a slave song in the southern States in pre-Civil War days. It continued to be used in black churches into the twentieth century, and was sung by southern gospel quartets in the 1940’s. Around 1956 Elvis Presley made a recording of the number, achieving record sales with it. Soon dozens of secular artists were adding it to their repertoire.

Usually, when a song receives such wide acceptance, it is because there is little to it–no doctrinal depth or strong biblical teaching that would limit its appeal. This song is no exception. There is nothing here about salvation through faith in Christ, or other important teaching. But that does not mean it is without value. The lyrics, though simple, can reflect a sincere and heartfelt love for the Lord.

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

It seemed appropriate to have a black gospel singer present this song, and here is one of the very best. Clara Ward was a gifted singer and arranger of gospel music in the 1940’s and 50’s. Her style influenced many who came after her. She died of a stroke at the age of 49, in 1973. Here is Clara Ward’s powerful but straightforward rendition of Just a Closer Walk.


  1. […] is renowned in hymn history as the translator of dozens of the hymns of others. Two of these are: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, and If Thou But Suffer God to Guide […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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