"JESUS, SAVIOR, PILOT ME"
"He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him" (Lk. 8.23).
INTRO.: A hymn which asks Jesus to guide our lives even as He commanded the wind and the waters is "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" (#89 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #184 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Edward Hopper, who was born in New York City, NY, on Feb. 17, 1816, the son of a merchant. Following his education at New York University and Union Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1842, he became a Presbyterian minister. With the exception of eleven years when he preached at Greenville and at Sag Harbor on Long Island, both in New York State, he spent his entire life in his native city. In 1870 he began work with a small congregation known as the Church of the Sea and the Land in New York City, where he served his remaining years until his death.
The Church of the Sea and the Land had been established at New York City harbor as a mission for sailors, in whom Hopper had always been deeply interested, probably through due to hiscontact with them through his father’s business. The congregation consisted mainly of seamen who made their way to and from their ships. Thus Hopper ministered to sea-faring men from around the world. Having already penned many poems which he never signed or for which he used pen names, he produced this hymn, probably in 1870, for the spiritual needs of his flock. It first appeared anonymously in the March, 1871, edition of The Sailor’s Magazine. Later that year, it was published in The Baptist Praise Book, with the tune (Pilot) composed by a Philadelphia, PA, musician named John Edgar Gould (1822-1875). Gould was born in Bangor, ME, and established a successful music business in Philadelphia with hymnwriter William G. Fischer. Because of ill health, he travelled to Europe and Africa, but instead of getting better he died in Algiers, Algeria.
In 1880, a special anniversary service of the Seamen’s Friends Society was held at the Broadway Tabernacle in New York City. Hopper was asked to provide a new hymn for the occasion, but instead brought and read "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me," which had already become quite well-known. Then, for the first time, he acknowleged it to be his. Eight years later, on Apr. 23, 1888, at the age of 82, he was found sitting peacefully at his desk in his New York City study, pencil in hand, having died of a heart attack while writing a new poem on the subject of "Heaven." At his funeral, someone said, "Suddenly the gentle, affectionate spirit of Edward Hopper entered the heavenly port, as he had requested–safely piloted by that never-failing friend, Jesus, whose divine voice was still tenderly whispering to him, ‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’"
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This hymn is a reminder of our constant need for Jesus on the stormy seas of life.
I. Stanza one speaks of life’s tempestuous sea with its waves, rocks, and shoals
"Jesus, Savior, pilot me Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rock and treacherous shoal;
Chart and compass came from Thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me."
A. In many ways, life is like a treacherous journey upon the seas of time: Psa. 107.25-30
B. As sailors do not always know exactly what kind of waves the seas will bring them, so we do not know what the vicissitudes of life will bring us: Jas. 4:14
C. However, whether facing storms of life or peaceful days, we can always look to the Lord to provide the fulness of joy: Psa. 89.8-9
II. Stanza two uses the story of Jesus’s stilling the storm as an illustration of His power to help us as well.
"When th’apostles’ fragile bark Struggled with the billows dark,
On the stormy Galilee, Thou didst walk across the sea;
And when they beheld Thy form, Safe they glided through the storm."
A. The fact is that on least two occasions Jesus was with the apostles during a storm on the Sea of Galilee: Lk. 8:22.25
B. One one of these occasions, He even walked acorss the water to aid and comfort them: Matt. 14:22-33
C. In like manner, God has promised His people that if we give control of our life’s ship to Him, He will give and progect us: Isa. 43:1-2
III. Stanza three reminds us that we need Christ as our pilot even when there are no disturbing storms and life seems calm
"Though the sea be smooth and bright, Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me."
A. Paul knew both how to be abased and how to abound; sometimes we find that our lives are filled with good and we abound in all things: Phil. 4:12
B. The word "halcyon" literally means "kingfisher" in Greek and refers to an ancient legend in which a bird, believed to have been the
kingfisher, was supposed to have a calming influence on the sea at the time of the winter solstice; thus it is defined as tranquil or happy, and this is certainly the kind of life that we all would like to lead: 1 Tim. 2:1-2
C. Whether facing storms of life or peaceful days, we should always look to the Lord to guide us: Ps. 31:1-3
IV. Stanza four teaches us that Jesus is the only one who can hush the ocean wild when we do face the storms of life
"As a mother stills her child, Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will When Thou sayest to them, ‘Be still!’
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me."
A. As a child looks to its mother to calm its fears, so we, as children of God, can look to Him to protect and provide for us in life: Jas. 1.17, 1 Jn. 3.1
B. And the same divine power which Christ manifested to still the storms on the Sea of Galilee is available to assist us in our problems: Mk. 4.35-41
C. Hence, we do not have to make our journey on the seas of life with trust in God rather than in constant fear: 2 Tim. 1.7, 1 Jn. 4.18
V. Stanza five talks about the shore where we can find peaceful rest
"When at last I near the shore, And the fearful breakers roar
‘Twixt me and the peaceful rest, THen, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me, ‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’"
A. The place where the fearful breakers roar refers to death: Heb. 9.27
B. The peaceful rest refers to the eternal home of the soul in heaven: Rev. 22.1-5
C. Therefore, if we truly trust in the Lord, He will show us the path of life to a land where there will be the fulness of joy in His presence and pleasures evermore: Psa. 16.10-11
CONCL.: We certainly do not expect Jesus to perform miracles today such as He did on the stormy Sea of Galilee. Those miracles are recorded in scripture and provide all the evidence that we need to believe on Him. But we can still expect Him to use His divine power to direct our lives. And this hymn’s simple and direct statement of the need to look to Jesus for guidance in my pilgrimage should motivate me always to say, "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me."