Henry Francis Lyte

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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DUFFIELD'S English tell us that "Henry Francis Lyte was born June 1st, 1793, at Kelso, Scotland, well known as the residence of Horatius Bonar from 1837 to 1866. During his collegiate course at Trinity College, Dublin, Lyte three times obtained the prize for English poetry, and the money thus gained was an important addition to his finances, which were meager enough. He then entered the ministry of the Church of England, having given up his original intention of studying medicine." But he appears not to have been converted until three years after his ordination.
“This he did not suspect," his biographer says, "till, on a certain occasion, he was sent for by a brother clergyman, who was dying and needed counsel. Then he found he knew no more than his unfortunate neighbor about the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. They were both frightened and subdued. Together they commenced an eager and anxious study of the Scriptures (Paul's Epistles, particularly), and in turn each was soon changed by the Spirit of divine grace in the whole temper of his mind and life.”
From that time Lyte became a deeply devoted man. The other died, Lyte says, "happy in the belief that, though he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his delinquencies, and he accepted for all that he had incurred. I was greatly affected by the whole matter, and brought to look at life and. its issue with a different eye than before; and I began to study my Bible and preach in another manner than I had previously done.”
His heart renewed by grace and touched with a tender Christ-like sympathy, Lyte took upon himself the care of his departed friend's family, "and so increased his own responsibilities and anxieties that his ill health can be largely attributed to this cause.”
The year after this (1819) he was settled at Lymington, Hampshire; and in 1823 was made "perpetual curate" of Lower Brixham, Devonshire, where "he relinquished society, culture arid everything, to follow Jesus.”
“His life was filled with disappointments and afflictions," a writer says, "his affections were betrayed and his health failed. He died in 1847, in his 54th year, and was buried away from home in the cemetery at Nice, on his way to Rome, where he had hoped to find rest and more soothing air than that of his seashore parish in England.”
A pathetic interest attaches to his well-known hymn,
"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!
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!
I need Thy presence ev'ry 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—Thou wilt abide with me!”
It was his last hymn, and was composed under the following sorrowful circumstances: Before his departure for Nice he addressed to his parishioners the following words: "Oh, brethren, I can speak feelingly and experimentally on this point; and I stand before you to-day as alive from the dead, to impress upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which comes to all, by a timely appreciation of and dependence upon the death of Christ.”
After these farewell words he retired to his chamber. Then, as the shadows of the closing day gathered, he came forth wearily, and placed in the hands of one of his family his now famous hymn, together with some music he had arranged for it. "The tune has perished," an annotator says, but the hymn is immortal." It was not intended for singing in public by a promiscuous congregation; yet we have seen it even in a book of songs for children!
The following is worth repeating from Dr. Robinson concerning Lyte's touching hymn, "Jesus, I my cross have taken." He says, "This fine poem arrested so much attention at once, that for many years it was credited in all the American collections to Sir Robert Grant; for nobody even knew the name of this modest curate, who was dividing his time between working out unwelcome parochial tasks and teaching African freedmen, just liberated from slavery, so that they might go as catechists and school-masters to Sierra Leone.”
So his life, though through much sorrow, was not lived in vain; for by the voice of his poems he still speaks to a world that little appreciates God's choicest gifts and which crucified His own dear Son.
Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken—by Henry Francis Lyte
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
Thou henceforth my all shalt be.
Perish ev'ry fond ambition—
All I've sought, or hoped, or known!
Yet how rich is my condition—
God and heav'n are still my own!
Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior too!
Human hearts and looks deceive me—
Thou art not, like them, untrue;
And while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate, and friends may shun me,—
Show Thy face, and all is bright.
Man may trouble and distress me—
'Twill but drive me to Thy breast!
Life with trials hard may press me—
Heav'n will bring me sweeter rest!
Oh, 'tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me!
Oh, 'tweer not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy apart from Thee!
Go then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure—
With Thy favor, loss is gain!
I have called Thee, Abba, Father!
I have stayed my heart on Thee!
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather
All must work for good to me!