Hymn Story: Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

Dwight L. Moody

In one of his sermons, Dwight L. Moody, the famed 19th Century evangelist, provided an anecdote of a pilot during the storm.  He spoke of how not even a star was visible on this night, as the ship captain neared harbor. Then he saw only light from a nearby lighthouse of Cleveland Harbor.  The lower lights had gone out and the pilot replied, “we must [make the harbor] or perish.”

Sadly, as the ship was steered to safety by the old captain, she {the ship} struck many rocks and there was a great loss of life in the stormy waters.

He said, “Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse.  Let us keep the lower lights burning.”

Philip P. Bliss, who worked alongside Moody, was in the audience that evening and inspired by his words.

Phillip P. Bliss

Working rapidly, as was his norm, he sat down and penned the words and composed the melody in one sitting. 

Philip Bliss met D.L. Moody and his music associate, Ira Sankey, in 1869 and soon joined the team. 

Bliss would go on to compose other great hymns such as Jesus Loves Even Me, Wonderful Words of Life, Hallelujah, What a Savior and Hold the Fort before his untimely death in a tragic train accident at the tender age of thirty-eight. 


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