Words: Francis H. Rowley, 1886. The original lyrics began,
Can’t you sing the wondrous story… Ira Sankey changed them before publishing the song in the 1887 edition of his Sacred Songs and Solos.
I was minister of the First Baptist Church of North Adams [Massachusetts] at the time the hymn was written in 1886, as nearly as I can remember.
The church and the community were experiencing a period of unusual interest in religious matters, and I was assisted by a remarkable young singer named Peter Bilhorn.
One night after the close of the service he said,Why don’t you write a hymn for me to set to music?During the night these most unpretentious and wholly unworthy verses came to me.
Some years ago as I was going down a London street one night about eleven o’clock, I discovered ahead of me a group of Salvation Army people holding a service, and as I came nearer to them it occurred to me that the hymn they were singing was familiar. Then it dawned upon me that it was this one.
I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.
I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.
I was bruised, but Jesus healed me,
Faint was I from many a fall,
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.
Days of darkness still come o’er me,
Sorrow’s path I often tread,
But the Savior still is with me;
By His hand I’m safely led.
He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He’ll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.