HE LEADETH ME
Joseph H. Gilmore, 1834–1918
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:2)
The blessedness and awe of being led by Almighty God Himself so impressed the author of this text that he wrote these beloved words spontaneously—and these exact words have been sung by believers around the world for more than a century.
Although Joseph Gilmore became a distinguished university and seminary professor, an author of several textbooks in Hebrew and English literature, and a respected Baptist minister, he is best remembered today for this one hymn, hurriedly written when he was just 28.
Gilmore scribbled down these lines while visiting with friends after preaching about the truths of the 23rd Psalm at the Wednesday evening service of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He left this account:
At the close of the service we adjourned to Deacon Watson’s pleasant home, where we were being entertained. During our conversation the blessedness of God’s leading so grew upon me that I took out my pencil, wrote the text just as it stands today, handed it to my wife, and thought no more of it.
Without telling her husband, Mrs. Gilmore sent the verses to the Watchman and Reflector Magazine, where it first appeared the following year. Three years later Joseph Gilmore went to Rochester, New York, as a candidate to become the pastor of Second Baptist Church. He recalls: Upon entering the chapel I took up a hymnal, thinking—I wonder what they sing here. To my amazement the book opened up at “He Leadeth Me,” and that was the first time I knew that my hurriedly written lines had found a place among the songs of the church.
William Bradbury, an important American contributor to early gospel hymnody, added two additional lines to the chorus:
“His faithful foll’wer I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.” Does that describe you? He leadeth me! O blessed thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine, nor ever murmur nor repine; content, whatever lot I see, since ’tis my God that leadeth me! And when my task on earth is done, when by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won, e’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, since God thru Jordan leadeth me.
Chorus: He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful foll’wer I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.
Psalm 23; 139:10, 24; Isaiah 41:13, 14; John 16:13