The Story Behind…“God Be With You Till We Meet Again”

The Story Behind…
“God Be With You Till We
Meet Again”

God be with you till we meet again,
By His counsels guide, uphold you;
With His sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again,
‘Neath His wings protecting hide you,
Daily manna still provide you,
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again,
Keep love’s banner floating o’er you,
Smite death’s threatening wave before you,
God be with you till we meet again.

We all say the familiar, “goodbye,” so often that we may not realize we are using a shortened form of the phrase, “God be with you.” Dr. J.E. Rankin, then a pastor in Washington, D.C., thought it too bad that we should lose the really beautiful meaning underlying the simple words. His melodious song, “God Be with You,” was wrought out of this idea to form a Christian benediction hymn.

When Dr. Rankin had finished the poem he sent it to Mr. W.G. Tomer, a composer whose melodies had already pleased him. The music Mr. Tomer composed for “God Be with You” is an excellent setting for the words, and contributes greatly to the hymn’s popularity. It is like some of the Negro spirituals in that one phrase of melody is repeated, and enlarged upon, come back to several times. The tune is subdues at first, suggestive of the sadness of farewell, yet in the refrain it breaks into strains that have the uplift of bright hope.

The hymn was first sung in Dr. Rankin’s own church. the First Congregational Church of Washington, D.C., and very soon became the favorite closing hymn of young people in the Christian Endeavor Society. It has been translated into many other languages, and sung by Christian Endeavor Societies all over the world. Writing concerning this use of the hymn, Dr. Rankin said: “It has had no sweeter recognition than that given it by its adoption by the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. Long, long, may they sing it!”

A few years before his death, when the late President Theodore Roosevelt was making a farewell visit in Memphis, Tenn., a great audience of three thousand people sang in his honor the well-loved strain, “God be with you till we meet again.”

Dr. Rankin was a man of unusual gifts. After serving as a pastor for many years, he became president of Howard University, Washington, D.C., an institution founded to help in the higher education of blacks. Not many of our hymns have been written by college presidents!

No happier farewell can be made than by the simple benediction, “God be with you till we meet again.” When Mr. Tomer. the composer of the beautiful melody died, “God Be With You” was sung at his funeral as a memorial by the chorus of his church, the Methodist Church of Phillipsburg, N.J.