Scripture Verse

He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul. Psalm 23:1–3


Joseph H. Gilmore (1834–1918)
Courtesy of Dave Morin

Words: Jo­seph H. Gil­more, 1862.

Music: Will­iam B. Brad­bu­ry, The Gold­en Cen­ser (New York: 1864) (🔊 pdf nwc).

William B. Bradbury (1816–1868)

Origin of the Hymn

As a young man who re­cent­ly had been gra­du­at­ed from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty and New­ton Theo­lo­gic­al Ins­ti­tu­tion, I was sup­ply­ing for a cou­ple of Sun­days the pu­lpit of the First Ba­ptist Church in Phi­la­del­phia.

At the mid-week ser­vice, on the 26th of March, 1862, I set out to give the peo­ple an ex­po­si­tion of the Twen­ty-third Psalm, which I had giv­en be­fore on three or four oc­ca­sions, but this time I did not get fur­ther than the words He Lead­eth Me.

Those words took hold of me as they had ne­ver done be­fore, and I saw them in a sig­ni­fi­cance and won­drous beau­ty of which I had ne­ver dreamed.

It was the dark­est hour of the Ci­vil War. I did not re­fer to that fact—that is, I don’t think I did—but it may sub­con­scious­ly have led me to real­ize that God’s lead­er­ship is the one sig­ni­fi­cant fact in hu­man ex­per­ie­nce, that it makes no dif­fer­ence how we are led, or whi­ther we are led, so long as we are sure God is lead­ing us.

At the close of the meet­ing a few of us in the par­lor of my host, good Dea­con Watt­son, kept on talk­ing about the thought which I had em­pha­sized; and then and there, on a blank page of the brief from which I had in­tend­ed to speak, I pen­ciled the hymn, talk­ing and writ­ing at the same time, then hand­ed it to my wife and thought no more about it.

She sent it to The Watch­man and Re­flec­tor, a pa­per pub­lished in Bos­ton, where it was first prin­ted. I did not know un­til 1865 that my hymn had been set to mu­sic by Will­iam B. Brad­bu­ry.

I went to Ro­ches­ter to preach as a can­di­date be­fore the Sec­ond Bap­tist Church. Go­ing in­to their cha­pel on ar­riv­al in the ci­ty, I picked up a hym­nal to see what they were sing­ing, and opened it at my own hymn, He Lead­eth Me.


He lead­eth me, O bless­èd thought!
O words with heav’n­ly com­fort fraught!
Whate’er I do, whe­re’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that lead­eth me.


He lead­eth me, He lead­eth me,
By His own hand He lead­eth me;
His faith­ful fol­low­er I would be,
For by His hand He lead­eth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deep­est gloom,
Sometimes where Ed­en’s bow­ers bloom,
By wa­ters still, ov­er trou­bled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that lead­eth me.


Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
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 vic­to­ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jor­dan lead­eth me.