Sung by Prince William, Catherine (Kate) Middleton, the Royal Family, and all of the wedding guests (okay, most of them just kind of moved their lips) you might like to know the history and legacy of this once popular hymn:
Encouraged by the Welsh Methodists to update their hymnal, William Williams Pantycelyn (1719-1791, an aspiring hymn writer penned his most famous song “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” which first appeared in 1745 in a Welsh hymnal, published by Wiliiams in Bristol, England, named “Hallelujah. Williams, the “Sweet Singer of Wales,” produced about 800 hymns. S.W. Duffield claimed that Williams, an avid revivalist Methodist preacher, did for Wales what Wesley and Watts did for England.
“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” or “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” originally consisted of five six-line stanzas and was entitled in Welsh “Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch” (in English, Lord, Lead Me Through the Wilderness).
The hymn is usually sung to John Hughes‘ Cwm Rhondda. This song, known as the Welsh rugby hymn, has been translated into seventy-five languages. It is so loved in Wales that it is considered an unofficial national anthem.
In 1771, Peter Williams (no relation to William Williams) translated stanzas 1, 3 and 5 into English and published them in his Hymns on Various Subjects, 1771. A year later, William Williams, or possibly his son, John Williams, translated another English version, using Peter Williams’ first stanza, then translating stanzas 3 and 4, and adding a new stanza as verse 4. He published it a pamphlet with these words: “A favorite hymn sung by Lady Huntingdon’s Young Collegians. Printed by the desire of many Christian friends. Lord, give it Thy blessing!” Most hymnals only use the first three stanzas of this translation.
The hymn can be heard sung in Welsh in John Ford’s Academy-Award-winning film of 1941, How Green Was My Valley and was sung at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
[or Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer…]
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold:
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
Sin, and Satan and the grave,
Sin, and Satan and the grave.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.
Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
This hymn speaks of our weakness and the power of God. It speaks of God’s ability to supply our need. It also speak of sin, death, hell and eternal life. Would to God that people today would take to heart these timeless truths.