STILL, STILL WITH THEE"
"How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God!….When I awake, I am still with Thee" (Ps. 139.17-18).
INTRO.: A hymn which expresses the confidence of God’s presence in the lives of His children is "Still, Still With Thee." The text was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was born at Litchfield, CN, on June 14, 1811, the sixth child and third daughter of Congregational minister Lyman Beecher and his wife Roxana. Her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, also became a minister. Her mother died when she was four, and she went to live with her grandmother at Guilford, CN, until her father’s remarriage. After being educated in the Academy at Litchfield, she taught at a seminary in Hartford, CN, which had been founded by her sister Catherine. In 1832, the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, OH, where Harriet’s father became President of Lane Seminary and the sisters established another school.
Four years afterwards, Harriet married Calvin E. Stowe, a professor of language and Bible literature at Lane, who later taught at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, and Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Becoming intensely interested in the abolition of slavery, Mrs. Stowe wrote a very famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin of 1852, which brought her national attention and is considered one of the factors that ultimately led to the Civil War. The Stowe’s home in Cincinnati was a station on the Underground Railroad. "Still, Still With Thee" was penned in the summer of 1853 when the author was visiting at the home of a friend. It resulted from her experiences of meditation while walking in the early morning hours, hearing the birds, and seeing the dawn break.
The song was first published in the 1855 Plymouth Collection of Hymns edited by Harriet’s brother Henry, which contained two other hymns by Mrs. Stowe. In addition to her articles written for periodicals, she published more than forty volumes of prose and one of poetry called Religious Poems in 1867. After the death of her husband in 1886, Mrs. Stowe went to live with one of her daughters at Hartford, CN, where she died at on July 1, 1896. The tune used in most of our books with this hymn (Metasou) was composed for this text by Ira David Sankey (1840-1904). It first appeared in the 1903 edition of his 1873 Sacred Songs and Solos.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text was placed in 1950 as an endsheet with a tune for male quartet chant by W. H. Gerrish in the 1937 Great Songs for the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson, and the song appeared in the 1975 Supplement to the same book. Today, it may be found in the 1977 edition of the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1990 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord (the next number uses the same words with the tune "Consolation" by Felix Mendelssohn most often associated with Anna B. Warner’s "We Would See Jesus") edited by John P. Wiegand.
The hymn is filled with the desire to be with the Lord in every activity of life.
I. The first stanza suggests that we can use the morning to draw nearer to God.
"Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee."
A. Morning is an excellent time to meditate on the closeness of God: Ps. 5.3
B. Jesus Himself went out in the morning, "when the bird waketh and the shadows flee," to be alone with God in prayer: Mk. 1.35
C. Those who truly love God will find that even in the morning, they can be impressed with the fact that they abide in Him and He in them: 1 Jn. 4.13
II. The second stanza reminds us that the daily renewal of nature parallels the rebirth of the soul.
"Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn."
A. The mystic shadows caused by the sun’s rising in the eastern heavens declare the glory of God: Ps. 19.1-5
B. In the solemn hush of nature newly reborn can be seen the eternal power and Godhead of the Lord: Rom. 1.20
C. Through these wonders we can see the need to draw near to God: Jas. 4.8
III. The third stanza says that looking for the morning star can help us draw nearer to God
"As in the dawning o’er the waveless ocean
The image of the morning star doth rest,
So in the stillness Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast."
A. The dawning of the morning is a good time to seek the Lord: Ps. 119.147
B. Just as the dawn is heralded by the "morning star" so Jesus is our Bright and Morning Star: Rev. 22.16
C. We should want the image of the Bright and Morning Star to dwell in our breast: 2 Cor. 3.18
IV. The fourth stanza tells us that a consciousness of God helps us to draw nearer to Him
"Still, still with Thee, as to each newborn morning,
A fresh and solemn splendor still is given,
So does this blessèd consciousness, awaking,
Breathe each day nearness unto Thee and Heaven.
A. Remembering that this was written as a morning hymn, we find that it is good to think of God and sing of God each newborn morning: Ps. 59.16
B. Just as each new morning gives a fresh and solemn splendor, so it brings new mercies from God: Lam. 3.23
C. Reflecting on God and His mercies in the morning helps to awaken the blessed consciousness that we can know God: Jer. 9.23-24
V. The fifth stanza shows that prayer is an activity that brings us to God.
"When sinks the soul, subdued by toil to slumber,
Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose beneath Thy wings o’er-shading,
But sweeter still, to wake and find Thee there."
A. Even as we should open our eyes in prayer each morning, we should close them in prayer each night, especially when subdued by toil and care: Ps. 6.6
B. Prayer is important, because it is the means by which we communicate to God both our thanks and our requests for those things which we need: Phil. 4.6-7
C. Those who so keep in touch with God through prayer can have the sweet repose that comes from honest labor and the knowledge that they are right with the Lord: Eccl. 5.12
VI. The sixth stanza points to the fact that even in death we can still be with the Lord.
"So shall it be at last, in that bright morning
When the soul waketh, and life’s shadows flee;
Oh, in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought I am with Thee."
A. After death, there will come a time that is likened unto a bright morning: Ps. 30.5
B. Thus, the final resurrection will be like a wakening of the soul in eternity: Dan. 12.2
C. Then, the glorious thought of that eternal dawning is that we shall ever be with the Lord: 1 Thess. 4.16-17
CONCL.: This is the only hymn by Harriet Beecher Stowe to survive in common use. However, it is commonly agreed by hymnologists that for sheer poetic beauty, there is probably not a single American hymn that can excel it. As we are drawn into the silence of the dawn where we can be alone with the Lord, it is as if we are telling Him that there is no greater blessing in this life than being "Still, Still With Thee."