Scripture Verse

He saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to Heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:11–12


Sarah F. Adams

Words: Verses 1–5, Sar­ah F. Ad­ams, in Hymns and An­thems, by Will­iam John­son Fox (London: Charles Fox, 1841), num­ber 85, alt. Verse 6, Ed­ward H. Bick­er­steth, Jr.

Music: Beth­a­ny (Ma­son) Lo­well Ma­son, 1856 (🔊 pdf nwc). One night, some­time af­ter ly­ing awake in the dark, eyes wide open, through the still­ness in the house the me­lo­dy came to me, and the next morn­ing I wrote down the notes.

Alternate Tunes:

This hymn was sung in the 1936 film San Fran­cis­co, which won an Aca­de­my Award for Best Sound Re­cord­ing, and was nom­in­at­ed in five oth­er ca­te­gor­ies. In addition, it was played on an or­gan in the 1983 mo­vie The Big Chill, which re­ceived sev­er­al Aca­de­my Award nom­in­a­tions, in­clud­ing Best Pic­ture. It was played by the ship’s band as the ship was sink­ing, in the 1998 mo­vie Ti­tan­ic, which won more than a do­zen Aca­de­my Awards, in­clud­ing best pic­ture.


One of my last le­ctures on Sac­red Song and Sto­ry was de­li­vered be­fore a large au­di­ence in the Church of the Co­ve­nant, in Wash­ing­ton, D. C., at which the late Sec­re­ta­ry of State, John Hay, mem­bers of Con­gress, and Judg­es of the Su­preme Court were pre­sent. The fa­vo­rite hymn, Near­er, my God, to Thee, was sung ve­ry hear­ti­ly by the con­gre­ga­tion.

I re­quest­ed the pas­tor, the Rev. Dr. Ham­lin, to make an ap­point­ment for an in­ter­view with Pre­si­dent [Will­iam] Mc­Kin­ley. Two days lat­er we vis­it­ed the White House. The Pre­si­dent greet­ed me warm­ly, say­ing he was ve­ry glad to meet me, as he had of­ten heard me sing in Ohio. I un­der­stand that you are quite a fine sing­er your­self, I re­plied. He smiled and said: I don’t know as to that, but I try to sing with the spir­it and the un­der­stand­ing. He seemed ve­ry bright and hap­py, and he gave me his au­to­graph.

The next day the Pre­si­dent went to New York and at­tend­ed ser­vice at the Fifth Av­e­nue Pres­by­te­ri­an Church, dur­ing which Near­er, my God, to Thee was sung. The Pre­si­dent’s voice was heard, as he joined hear­ti­ly in his fa­vo­rite hymn. A re­por­ter took a pho­to­graph of the Pre­si­dent as he was sing­ing, which ap­peared the next day in one of the New York papers.

In 1902, in Buf­fa­lo [New York], as he lay dy­ing by the hands of an as­sas­sin, the mar­tyred Pre­si­dent was heard sing­ing faint­ly,

Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee;
E’en though it be a cross
That raiseth me!
Still all my song shall be—
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

And thus passed away one of the no­blest men of our age. On the day of his fun­er­al, at Can­ton, Ohio, all trains, trol­ley cars and near­ly all ma­chin­e­ry in the Unit­ed States were stopped for five mi­nutes, and Near­er, my God, to Thee, was sung in near­ly ev­ery church in the land.

Sankey, pp. 200–201


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,


There let the way appear,
Steps unto Heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me,
In mercy giv1n;
Angels to beckon me


Then, with my waking thoughts,
Bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs,
Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be,


Or, if on joyful wing
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upward I’ll fly,
Still all my song shall be,


There in my Father’s home,
Safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love,
Perfectly blest;
Age after age to be,