He rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.@Matthew 18:13
portrait
Elizabeth C. Clephane (1830-1869)

Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868.

Ira D. Sankey, Sacred Songs and Solos 1874 (🔊 pdf nwc).

In Fergus, Ontario, Canada, lies the body of the man for whom was written the hymn The Ninety and Nine…[George] Clephane, who was known as a remittance man, came to Canada to try farming about the year 1842.…His efforts at farming were not a success, a failure which led to indulgence in strong drink. The habit grew with his despondency, and during one of these bouts, while living with a medical doctor friend at Fergus, he died.

His sister Elizabeth had her brother in mind when she penned these now famous lines which were not in print until after her death. They were…first published in The Children’s Hour and thence copied in various magazines. It was Mr. Sankey who saw the poem in a magazine, cut it out and put it in his note case.

At an evangelistic meeting in Edinburgh [Scotland], in 1874, a sister of George and Elizabeth Clephane happened to be in the audience when Mr. Moody—after his talk on the Good Shepherd—remarked to Sankey, Sing something appropriate, Sankey. Sankey said he prayed for a tune. The answer came as he put his hands on the organ keys, and sang for the first time the tender lines of the hymn penned by a sister for brother in far-away Canada.

Blanchard, pp. 95-6

illustration
Christ the Shepherd
Bernhard Plockhorst (1825-1907)

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?

But the Shepherd made answer: This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die;
Sick and helpless and ready to die.

Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track

They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.

Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn;
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.

And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of Heaven,
Rejoice! I have found My sheep!
And the angels echoed around the throne,
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!