Hymn Stories: He Leadeth Me

Joseph H. Gilmore

Joseph Henry Gilmore was a seminary professor, Baptist minister, and author of several textbooks in Hebrew and English. However, he is best remembered today for his hymn He Leadeth Me.
The year was 1862, and the Civil War was raging all around. Gilmore later wondered if God was leading him to focus on His {The Lord’s} leadership.
He was invited to preach for two weeks at the historic First Baptist Church of Philadelphia. He later recalled “I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm. I had given this exposition on three or four other occasions, but this time I did not get beyond the words ‘He leadeth me.’ So greatly impressed was I with the blessedness of divine guidance that I made this my theme.”
One Wednesday evening after the church service, he was visiting with friends. The conversation turned to his sermon that evening on the 23rd Psalm and he began to scribble down the lines to this hymn.
He later said, “At the close of the service we adjourned to Deacon Watson’s pleasant home, where we were being entertained. During our conversation, the blessedness of God’s leading so grew upon me that I took out my pencil, wrote the text just as it stands today, handed it to my wife, and thought no more of it.”
Well, leave it to a woman to take things into her own hands. I know I’m guilty of that many times.
His wife, Mary Josephine Parkhurst, sent the verses her husband wrote to the Watchman and Reflector Magazine, without telling her husband. The magazine printed the poem the following year.
Three years later, the Gilmore’s traveled to Rochester, New York, where the Second Baptist Church was considering calling him as their new pastor.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore recalled, “Upon entering the chapel I took up a hymnal, thinking—I wonder what they sing here. To my amazement the book opened to “He Leadeth Me,” and that was the first time I knew that my hurriedly written lines had found a place among the songs of the church.”
Gilmore would go on to pastor that church for two years, before teaching at the University of Rochester in New York. He also served as secretary to his father, while he was governor of New Hampshire.
Joseph Gilmore died on July 23, 1918 in Rochester, New York.
William Bradbury, a well-known hymn composer, had provided the melody and two additional lines to the chorus: “His faithful foll’wer I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.” He had found the poem and was struck by it and added the music to create the hymn we know today.

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