466

Abide With Me

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text was inspired by Luke 24:29, in which the two travelers to Emmaus ask Jesus to "stay with us, for it is nearly evening." But "Abide with Me" is not a hymn for the evening of a day; instead evening is a metaphor for the close of life, a transition from life's "little day" (st. 2) to "Heaven's morning" (st. 5), which Lyte himself was quickly I   approaching. The text is a prayer for God's abiding care when friends fail (st. 1), when everything seems to change and decay (st. 2), when the devil attacks (st. 3), when death approaches (st. 4), and when we pass from this life to heaven's glory (st. 5).
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook
 
Though inspired by Luke 24:29, Lyte’s hymn develops “evening” as an extended metaphor for the close of life. Stanza 4 originally contained the line “Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness,” which the editors of the Psalter Hymnal (1987) changed to reflect the realism of Psalm 23:4.
 
Bert Polman

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

No hope is stronger than that expressed in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: we “…belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…because I belong to him, Christ by His Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life...”
 
The basic perspective of hope is expressed in Belgic Confession, Article 37 “…the Lord will make them (us) possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine. So we look forward to that day (of Christ’s return) with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 15, Question and Answer 42 clarifies what may be misunderstood when it says that even though Christ died for us, we still have to die, but “our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.” Additionally, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 explains that Christ’s resurrection “is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57 and 58 speak reassurances about the actual event of dying: “Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body,” and “even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58).
 

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 56 summarizes our hope by testifying, “We long for that day when our bodies are raised, the Lord wipes away our tears, and we dwell forever in the presence of God. We will take our place in the new creation, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and the Lord will be our light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

466

Abide With Me

Tune Information

Name
EVENTIDE
Key
E♭ Major
Meter
10.10.10.10

Recordings

466

Abide With Me

Hymn Story/Background

Henry Francis Lyte wrote this text in the late summer of 1847; he died in November of that year (various other stories about Lyte's writing of this text do not appear to be reliable). First printed in a leaflet in 1847, the text was published posthumously in Lyte's Remains (1850). Most hymnals customarily omit three of the original eight stanzas.
 
The text was inspired by Luke 24:29, in which the two travelers to Emmaus ask Jesus to "stay with us, for it is nearly evening." But "Abide with Me" is not a hymn for the evening of a day; instead evening is a metaphor for the close of life, a transition from life's "little day" (st. 2) to "Heaven's morning" (st. 5), which Lyte himself was quickly approaching. The text is a prayer for God's abiding care when friends fail (st. 1), when everything seems to change and decay (st. 2), when the devil attacks (st. 3), when death approaches (st. 4), and when we pass from this life to heaven's glory (st. 5).
 
The union of this text and tune was made by the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).
 
According to some sources, William H. Monk wrote EVENTIDE for Lyte's text in ten minutes. As the story goes, Monk was attending a hymnal committee meeting for the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern of which he was music editor. Realizing that this text had no tune, Monk sat down at the piano and composed EVENTIDE. The hymn was then published in that edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The tune has always been associated with this text.
 
EVENTIDE is a modest tune, much loved in the Christian church. Though often used for solemn occasions, the tune must not be sung too slowly. Try singing one of the middle stanzas without accompaniment. Organists should keep a firm and steady tempo.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Henry Francis Lyte (b. Ednam, near Kelso, Rosburghshire, Scotland, 1793; d. Nice, France, 1847) was orphaned at an early age. He decided to pursue a medical career, although he also had an early interest in poetry. At Trinity College, Dublin, Scotland, he was awarded a prize for his poems on three different occasions. While at Trinity, he decided to become a minister and in 1815 was ordained in the Church of England. He served a number of parishes, including Lower Brixham, a small fishing village in Devonshire (1823-1847). Lyte wrote a considerable body of poetry, hymns, and psalm paraphrases, which were published in Tales on the Lord's Prayer in Verse (1826), Poems, Chiefly Religious. (1833, 1845, slightly enlarged posthumously as Miscellaneous Poems, 1868), and The Spirit of the Psalms (1834, 1836). Because of ill health, Lyte made winter visits to the French Riviera from 1844 until his death there in 1847.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

William H. Monk (b. Brompton, London, England, March 16, 1823; d. London, March 18, 1889) is best known for his music editing of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861, 1868, 1875, and 1889 editions). He also adapted music from plainsong and added accompaniments for Introits for Use Throughout the Year, a book issued with that famous hymnal. Beginning in his teenage years, Monk held a number of musical positions. He became choirmaster at King's College in London in 1847 and was organist and choirmaster at St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, from 1852 to 1889, where he was influenced by the Oxford Movement. At St. Matthias, Monk also began daily choral services with the choir leading the congregation in music chosen according to the church year, including psalms chanted to plainsong. He composed over fifty hymn tunes and edited The Scottish Hymnal (1872 edition) and Wordsworth's Hymns for the Holy Year (1862) as well as the periodical Parish Choir (1840-1851).
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

According to an edition of the British Weekly, in the late summer of 1847, after preaching his final sermon, knowing his time on earth was drawing to a close, Henry Francis Lyte “walked in the valley garden in front of the home, then down to the rocks, where he sat and composed. It was a lovely sunny day and the sun was setting over distant Dartmoor in a blaze of glory. On the left lay Brixham harbor like a pool of molten gold, with its picturesque trawling vessels lying peacefully at anchor. After the sun had set, Lyte returned to his study. His family thought he was resting, but he was putting the finishing touches to his immortal hymn” (Bailey, The Gospel in Hymns, 171). Later that fall, Lyte passed away, but his hymn has indeed endured through the years as a beloved hymn of peace and prayer in the face of change. Theodore L. Cuyler once relayed a story in which a dying woman recited this hymn as she lay in bed during her last hours. He writes, “As I came away from that room, which had been as the vestibule of heaven, I understood how the ‘light of eventide’ could be only a flashing forth of the overwhelming glory that plays for ever around the throne of God” (Sankey, My Life and Hymns, 57). What a beautiful image when we see the light of day ebbing—this light is only a shadow of the light of life that shines forth from Christ. 
— Laura de Jong
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