Hymn 38
(tune: Nearer My God to Thee)

Nearer My God To Thee is an old English hymn, the lyrics for which were written by poet and Unitarian hymn writer Sarah Flower Adams in 1841. It was first set to music by Adams’ sister, composer Eliza Flower. But in the UK, it is most often sung to the 1861 hymn tune “Horbury” by John Bacchus Dykes. However, the rest of the world usually sings this hymn to the 1856 tune “Bethany” by Lowell Mason. Bethany is the tune provided in the 2014 Cherokee Hymn Book, and the one that I’m familiar with and used on my CD.

Adam’s inspiration for her poem was from Genesis 28:11–12 in the Bible, which tells of Jacob’s dream of a ladder that was set on earth and rose up to heaven, on which angels of God were ascending and descending.

Historically, this hymn is tied to horrific tragedy. It was sung by the doomed crew and passengers of the SS Valencia as it sunk off the Canadian coast in 1906. But few people know of that event, while a great many associate it with the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, as related by survivors and immortalized in films (1929, ’43, ’53, and ’97).

The Cherokee lyrics are eight verses that beckon the humble sinner so that “the One who lives above” can have mercy on you. I have included the first and final verses on my recording. The final verse tells you that trusting in the Creator will lead you to live in heaven.

This was the final song that I cut for the CD, but it was certainly not an afterthought. Nearer My God To Thee has long been a favorite of mine and I really like the message from the Cherokee lyrics.

Listen to a sample of this song here: