Scripture Verse

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


William G. Fischer

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

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

Erastus Johnson

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.


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.


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!


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