JESUS, SAVIOR, PILOT ME
Edward Hopper, 1818–1888
Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11 KJV)
“Lord, save us; we perish,” the disciples cried, and instantly Christ arose to rebuke the winds of the storm and calm the sea.
Today’s hymn expresses in 19th century sailor’s language the universal human need for divine help. Edward Hopper, a gentle, humble man, was a Presbyterian minister with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. His most fruitful ministry, however, was with the sailors at the small Church of the Sea and Land in the New York harbor area, where he ministered until his death.
Hopper wrote today’s text especially for the spiritual needs of these sailors from around the world; it became their favorite hymn. “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” uses only three of the original six verses written by Dr. Hopper. One of the omitted stanzas is an interesting reminder of our constant need for Christ even when there are no disturbing storms and life seems calm.
Though the sea be smooth and bright, sparkling with the stars of night, and my ship’s path be ablaze with the light of halcyon [peaceful] days, still I know my need of Thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
Edward Hopper died at the age of 70 as he was sitting peacefully in his study, pencil in hand, working on a new poem about heaven. At his funeral this tribute was given: “Suddenly the gentle, affectionate spirit of Edward Hopper entered the heavenly port, as he had requested—safely piloted by that never-failing friend, Jesus, whose divine voice was still tenderly whispering to him, ‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’
” Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; unknown waves before me roll, hiding rocks and treach’rous shoal; chart and compass come from Thee—Jesus, Savior, pilot me! As a mother stills her child, Thou canst hush the ocean wild; boist’rous waves obey Thy will when Thou say’st to them, “Be still.”
Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me! When at last I near the shore, and the fearful breakers roar ’twixt me and the peaceful rest—then, while leaning on Thy breast, may I hear Thee say to me, “Fear not—I will pilot thee.”
Psalm 89:9; 107:28–30; Matthew 8:23–27; James 1:6