Scripture Verse

He rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Matthew 18:13

Introduction

portrait
Elizabeth C. Clephane
(1830–1869)

Words: El­iz­a­beth C. Cle­phane, 1868.

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

If you have ac­cess to a bet­ter pho­to of Clephane, would you ?

illustration
Christ the Shepherd
Bernhard Plockhorst
(1825–1907)

Origin of the Hymn

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. 95–96

Lyrics

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!