Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Hymns #301, Appendix 13.
We have all enjoyed from time to time singing hymn #301, “Our rest is in heaven, our rest is not here” etc. The dear servant of God who was used to write this precious hymn knew what toils and labor were here below. A devoted life to the work of the Lord and the good of His people was what marked Henry Francis Lyte. Born June 1, 1793, at Kelso, Scotland, he knew what poverty was, yet he struggled hard and at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland (where J.N.D. later attended) he was awarded the prize for English poetry three times. This gave him some much needed money. He intended to be a physician, but gave this up and became a minister in the Church of England, all while he was yet unsaved!
Three years after he entered the ministry (1818) another clergyman was dying in agony of soul because he was “unpardoned and unprepared to die.” Lyte was called to this man’s bedside and soon realized that he was not ready either! They were both frightened and subdued. They read together in the Epistles of Paul and were brought to rest on the work of Christ. When his friend died Lyte said, “he died happy under the belief that, though he deeply erred, there was ONE whose death and sufferings would atone for all delinquencies, and HE accepted for all that he had incurred.”
Lyte labored in the seafaring town and area of Brixham, England. He had a large Sunday school work which embraced several hundred scholars, for whom he trained about 70 to teach them. One of his most famous hymns is “Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee.” This is not in the Little Flock, but hymn Appendix #13 is his other hymn in that collection.
One writer says that his life “was filled with disappointments and afflictions.” The last hymn was written by him(“Abide with Me”) under pathetic circumstances. He had been ordered by the doctor to leave for southern parts because of poor health. At the last service conducted by him he stood before the people he loved so much for the Lord’s sake and said, “I stand before you seasonably today as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with, appreciation of, and a dependence on the death of Christ.” He then retired to his chamber aware of his near approach to the end here below. As the darkness of evening settled down he came forth and handed to a near relative this hymn with a tune to sing it by. The tune has been lost, but the words continue to this day:
“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, oh, abide with me.”
The next stanza told out his own experience at that moment:
“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;
Oh Thou, Who changest not, abide with me!”
Soon after in that same year (1847) on Nov. 20th, in his 54th year he died at Nice, France, while on his way to Rome. So he found that the One in Whom he trusted did abide with him. He has experienced what he so happily expressed in the last lines of the hymn:
“Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”