Posted by: rcottrill | November 14, 2010

Today in 1864 – Helen Lemmel Born

The frail old woman sits at a table in her tiny room in Seattle, Washington. Before her is a small plastic organ–one such as a child might have. But, as she fingers the keys and sings, her poor surroundings seem to fade from view, her face shines with the light of heaven, and tears trickle down her time-lined cheeks. Perhaps in her mind she is seated at a majestic pipe organ in some ornate cathedral. But the place doesn’t matter. She is intent on worshiping her Saviour.

The woman’s name is Helen. In her nineties at the time described, and with little of this world’s goods, her faith sustained her. When asked, “How are you?” her frequent reply was, “I am fine in the things that count.” (Well said!)

Helen Howarth Lemmel was born in England, the daughter of a Methodist clergyman. As a child, she was brought to America, where she spent the remainder of her life. A gifted soloist, she gave concerts in many churches, and taught voice for a time at Moody Bible Institute. She moved to Seattle in 1904, and for three years was music critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Mrs. Lemmel also authored about 500 hymns.

She wrote a lovely song–both words and music–in 1918. Helen Lemmel was given a tract by a visiting missionary. The leaflet was entitled “Focused,” and in it was this exhortation: “So then, turn your eyes upon Him [Christ]. Look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

Mrs. Lemmel was riveted by those words. She says, “I stood still. And singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody.” The three stanzas of the song were added later the same week.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

(2) Today in 1893 – Boundless Salvation introduced
In November of 1893, the Salvation Army conducted a series of evangelistic meetings in Exeter Hall, in London. They called it The Boundless Salvation Campaign. It was for those meetings that the Army’s founder, William Booth, wrote the words of the song Boundless Salvation (sometimes listed as O Boundless Salvation). It became so identified with him over the years that it came to be known as “The Founder’s Song.” It was first sung in the meeting held on this date, and was published in the Salvation Army magazine War Cry the following month.

O boundless salvation! deep ocean of love,
O fullness of mercy, Christ brought from above,
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free,
Now flowing for all men, now flowing for all men,
Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!

My sins they are many, their stains are so deep,
And bitter the tears of remorse that I weep;
But useless is weeping; thou great crimson sea,
Thy waters can cleanse me, thy waters can cleanse me,
Thy waters can cleanse me, come, roll over me!

For an account of the old General’s last address to the Army, and to hear a Salvation Army congregation singing this hymn, see the second item under Today in 1817.


  1. That hymn of Helen Lemmel’s is for me what I would call my “life hymn.” It seems that the answer for any difficulty I face is always “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.”

    • Beautiful song, and biblical too. Scripture says we are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:1-2).

  2. I really thought Turn Your Eyes was a Keith Green song or something lol.

    It has been and still is covered by many contemporary recording artists, so I gave it a bump up the newness ladder by about 60 years or so 😉

    • Interesting. I actually find that quite often, especially with younger folks. Their favourite artist records a song, and they conclude it was original with him or her. And sometimes I see songs called “a Catholic hymn,” or “a Mormon hymn,” that I know right well are nothing of the kind. God bless.

      • It happens when the latest Top 40 group covers a Beatles song, too. Normally I can suss these things out. “Turn Your Eyes” slipped by me, just this once! 🙂

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  4. […] Music: My Jesus, I Love Thee, by J. Ellis (further information needed) Links: Wordwise Hymns (and here too) The Cyber […]

  5. My heart was overwhelmed this morning with cares and a tinge of frustration as I looked at things expected of people to do and have to keep chasing. In the midst of this, I knew I could carry on if I want to have a good day. Then the sweet Holy Spirit started to sing this song in my spirit- ‘Turn your eyes on Jesus’.

  6. I was meditating this morning and this old hymn popped to mind.I started singing it (and gently weeping) looked it up and found your site. Praise God!! What a blessing. My ‘old’ church used to sing this 40 years ago. Thank you, It was just what I needed today!

    • Glad I could be of encouragement. It is a beautiful song about our wonderful Saviour. God bless.


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