Scripture Verse

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Introduction

portrait
William G. Fischer
1835–1912

Words: Er­as­tus John­son, writ­ten dur­ing the Am­er­ican fi­nan­cial pa­nic of 1871.

Music: Will­iam G. Fis­cher (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
Erastus Johnson
1826–1909

There was a con­ven­tion of the [Young Men’s Chris­tian As­so­cia­tion] at Car­lisle [Penn­syl­van­ia], which I at­tend­ed as a de­le­gate, and John Wan­a­mak­er was pre­si­dent of the con­ven­tion. About the se­cond day there came a te­le­gram from Phi­la­del­phia that the bank­ing house of Jay Cook & Co. had failed, in which Mr. Wan­a­mak­er had $70,000 which to him at that time in life was a great amount to lose.

Soon fol­lowed re­ports of oth­er firms through­out the coun­try, in­di­cat­ing a ge­ne­ral pan­ic. As a mat­ter of course, it threw a pall of gloom ov­er the con­ven­tion, for near­ly all its mem­bers were men of bu­si­ness.

As an ex­pres­sion of the com­mon feel­ing I wrote The Rock That Is High­er Than I.…Mr. Wm. Fis­her [sic] of Phi­la­del­phia, the com­pos­er of ma­ny tunes for gos­pel hymns, was at the con­ven­tion, and in con­junc­tion with Bro­ther Will­iam, led the sing­ing. I gave the words to him and he set them to mu­sic, sang them, and they with the mu­sic im­me­di­ate­ly be­came po­pu­lar in the con­ven­tion, es­pe­ci­al­ly with Mr. Wan­a­mak­er, who sev­er­al times called for it. And soon it found its way in­to ma­ny pub­li­ca­tions.

Autobiography of Er­as­tus John­son, ed­it­ed by Fre­mont John­son, Chapter VII

Johnson’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy al­so relates some in­ci­dents con­nect­ed to the song:

In 1881 I was in At­lan­ta [Geor­gia] put­ting an oil show in the Ex­po­si­tion for the Stan­dard Oil Co. Sun­day morn­ing I en­tered a church near my stop­ping place just as Sun­day School was be­gin­ning and was shown in­to a bi­ble class.

The first piece sung was this one, and I had the va­ni­ty to tell the lead­er of the class that the piece was mine. He said, It is mine too, I like that piece. I ven­tured a step far­ther and said I wrote it. He an­swered, Well, it is worth writ­ing; I have thought I would write it off my­self. I gave it up.

Another in­stance was the fol­low­ing: I was for a time con­fined in a hos­pi­tal at What­com, Wash. (Feb 1900) hav­ing had an op­era­tion per­formed, and in an ad­join­ing room was a young la­dy who had re­ceived se­vere in­jur­ies from fall­ing from a high bridge by the back­ing of a fright­ened horse, and she had been thrown through the rail­ing.

She was a good sing­er, ac­com­pa­ny­ing her songs with her gui­tar, and as she lay up­on her bed, sang ma­ny songs, most­ly gos­pel, which sound­ed out through the halls and rooms very sweet­ly to the gra­ti­fi­ca­tion of ma­ny list­en­ers, who sent back to her words of ap­pre­ci­a­tion. Among oth­er things she oft­en sang The Rock That Is High­er Than I.

At length, get­ting so that I could walk on crutch­es, I ob­tained the per­mis­sion of the ma­tron and made her a vi­sit, thank­ing her for the en­joy­ment she had af­ford­ed us, and mak­ing known to her the au­thor­ship of the piece men­tioned, to her great sur­prise.

Another tes­ti­mo­ny of ap­pre­ci­a­tion which gave me much sa­tis­fac­tion was a let­ter I re­ceived from a la­dy, and how she found my ad­dress was a mys­te­ry. She wrote that it was the dy­ing re­quest of her fa­ther that she should find out my where­abouts and write, thank­ing me for the com­fort the words had giv­en him.

When in St. Lou­is in 1901 on a vis­it to Will­iam and Na­than, who should come in on me but the re­por­ter of one of the pa­pers, say­ing he want­ed to take the pic­ture of the au­thor of The Rock That Is High­er Than I. How he was in­formed of the fact that I was there, I didn’t know. It was not through my bro­thers. If I was flat­tered at so much at­ten­tion, the flat­tery was all spoiled when my pic­ture ap­peared.

Lyrics

Oh! some­times the sha­dows are deep,
And rough seems the path to the goal,
And sor­rows, some­times how they sweep
Like tem­pests down ov­er the soul.

Refrain

O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is high­er than I
O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is high­er than I!

Oh! some­times how long seems the day,
And some­times how wea­ry my feet!
But toil­ing in life’s dus­ty way,
The Rock’s bless­èd sha­dow, how sweet!

Refrain

Then near to the Rock let me keep
If bless­ings or sor­rows pre­vail,
Or climb­ing the moun­tain way steep,
Or walk­ing the sha­dowy vale.

Refrain