Henry F Lyte (1793–1847) had an unpromising start in life. Shortly after being sent to boarding school in Ireland, his father abandoned the family and his mother and younger brother moved to London. Shortly afterwards, they both died and he was taken into the household of the headmaster. From there he went to Trinity College in Dublin, and then into the Anglican ministry in 1815. The following year he was converted, and shortly afterwards moved to England where he ministered in the South-West for the rest of his years.
He had suffered from very poor health, but was insistent that he would continue preaching often saying “it is better to wear out than to rust out”. When he preached his last sermon in September of 1847, he was in no doubt as to his health:
I stand up here among you seasonably to-day, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour, which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with, appreciation of, dependence on, the death of Christ.
It was after this he penned ‘Abide with Me’, inspired by the disciples on the road to Emmaus who urged the risen Christ “strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent’” (Luke 24:29). It is a hymn of entire reliance on Christ, and often only a few of the verses are printed in hymn books. So savour the full text here:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terror, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.