The Story Behind …
Text — Edward Hopper, 1822-1888
Music — John E. Gould, 1922-1875
Thou wilt show me the path of life: In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore. —Psalm 16:11
Just as our Lord often taught profound spiritual truths with earthly associations, so many of our fine hymns have been written with symbolic imagery that makes them more understandable as we sing. This hymn was written especially for sailors in language they knew well —charts, compasses, and the absolute need for a competent pilot to guide their crafts over the tempestuous seas.
Edward Hopper was born in New York City on February 17, 1818. His father was a merchant and his mother a descendant of the Huguenots, the persecuted French Protestants. In 1870, he began the most fruitful phase of his ministry when he became pastor of a church in New York harbour known as the “Church of Sea and Land.” Here he ministered most effectively for the remaining years of his life to the many sailors who made their way to and from their ships.
It was while ministering at his sailor’s mission that Edward Hopper wrote this hymn text especially for the spiritual needs of these sea-faring men. He wrote it anonymously, as he did all of his works, and for some time no one ever knew that the pastor of the sailors was also the author of the sailor’s favorite hymn. Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me has been included in nearly every evangelical hymnal published until the present time. Through the years it has been a hymn that is especially meaningful to young people sincerely concerned about knowing God’s will for their lives.
At the age of seventy-two, Edward Hopper’s prayer expressed in the third stanza of his immortal hymn had its complete fulfillment when he died in 1888. He was found sitting in his study chair, pencil in hand, writing a new poem on the subject of heaven.
How important it is, dear Christian friend, that you and I learn the lesson of this hymn — that of placing our implicit confidence in the Pilot of our souls as He guides us through the tempestuous seas of life. And though there may be the storms and waves that at times almost seem to swamp us, we can be certain that our Lord is still in control and will lead us safely to our heavenly home.
The Incomparable Christ
More than 1900 years ago a Man was born contrary to the laws of nature. This man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which he lived; that was during His childhood when He was in exile in Egypt.
He possessed neither wealth nor influence, his relatives were inconspicuous, and had neither training nor formal education.
In infancy He startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of nature; He walked upon the billows as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep.
He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services.
He never wrote a book, and yet all the libraries in the world could not hold the books that have been written about Him.
He never wrote a song and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the song writers combined.
He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.
He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader had more volunteers who have under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot being fired.
He never practiced psychiatry, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near.
Once every week the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way to worshipping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him.
The names of the proud statemen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more.
Though time has spread more than 1900 years between the people of his generation and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He lives. Herod could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold him.
He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints and feared by demons as the risen, personal Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
At this season The Incomparable Christ is still standing at many a heart’s door, seeking admission. His words says: “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man will hear My voice and open the door I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
Also, “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given to the world. He can be yours. IS HE?
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).