Nearer My God to Thee, the Song and the Story

Composer Sarah Flower Adams Writes Nearer My God to Thee



Genesis Scroll
Nearer My God to Thee was written by British actress, dramatic poet and Unitarian hymn writer Sarah Flower Adams (1805-1848). Her sister Eliza wrote the original music. Several versions of melody have emerged over the years.

After Adams' performance in London's 1837 MacBeth, she received rave reviews. Her desire was to continue with the theatre indefinitely, but frail health interrupted her plans. And so she took to writing poems and hymns.

A pastor from the Unitarian church was visiting with Adams' family one afternoon. He mentioned that he was having difficulty finding a hymn that represented his next week's sermon, taken from on Genesis 28:11-19 (The story of Jacob's dream). Sarah volunteered to write a hymn for the occasion. Within the week, Nearer My God to Thee was born.

The beautiful hymn has touched many lives, and has even found its way into the (modern) theatre that Adams so dearly loved. The song has been sung and/or played in several TV and Hollywood films, including the Academy Award-winning films San Francisco (1936), and Titanic (1953, 1958, 1997). One true life Canadian survivor of the 1912 RMS Titanic tragedy reported that the band did indeed play Nearer My God to Thee as the ship was sinking.

Nearer My God to Thee

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song would be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'” (Genesis 28:16)

Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen

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