Hymn Story: He Will Hold Me Fast

He will Hold Me Fast was written by Ada Ruth Habershon best known for the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”. She was born in 1861 in Marylebone, England.

She first began writing hymns in 1899 in German. In 1901, she wrote in English.

In 1905, Ruben A. Torrey and Charles Alexander asked Habershon to write hymns for their evangelistic tour.

After meeting a young convert in Toronto, Canada who “expressed the fear that he would not be able to hold out,” Harkness {the pianists for Torrey and Alexander} wrote to Habershon asking her to write texts to address this sentiment.

In Torrey and Alexander: The Story of a World-Wide Reviva, Harkness reveals being in 1906 Philadelphia. He said “I remember Dr. Torrey was preaching to about 4000 people in the Armory. During a sermon I took out some slips of paper with some words which Miss Habershon had sent over in response to a request for some verses about keeping the power of Christ. I read over the lines of “He will hold me fast”; the melody came to me, and I worked it out there and then, writing the music for the verses and the chorus.”

At a Moody Bible Conference in 1907, the song is said to have “captivated everybody . . . and was sung and whistled all over the grounds.”

The song has many testimonies from people stating it is “just what I need” to “electrifying the crowd”.

The song first circulated in leaflets or small revival booklets before appearing in a hymnal.

It has the unusual feature of placing the melody in the bass line. Harkness explained “I adopted the plan of putting the melody in the left hand and writing a little accompaniment for the right, having got the idea from hearing a cello in an orchestra….Some of the leading gospel writers said that these would never be sung, because they were opposed to the rules of gospel hymns, but the public apparently cared nothing for the rules, as they quickly became very popular, and since then numbers of writers have adopted the principle.”

The song has a cycle of falling out of popularity and then finding a resurgence.

Matt Merker set a new tune to the lyrics in 2013. “Merker’s version combines Habershon’s original four stanzas into two, with some minor alterations, and it adds an additional stanza featuring the resurrection and return of Christ.”

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