“Tarry With Me”

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me" (Ps. 23.4)

     INTRO.: A hymn that asks the Lord to be with us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death is "Tarry With Me" (#84 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #660 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Carolyn Louise Sprague Smith, who was born at Salem, MA, on June 21, 1827. She became the wife of Charles Smith, who was minister at the South Church in Andover, MA. In the summer of 1852, she heard a well known preacher of the time, Henry Martyn Dexter, present a semon on "The Adaptedness of Religion to the Wants of the Aged." Dexter is best remembered today as the translator of the hymn "Shepherd of Tender Youth" originally written in Greek by Clement of Alexandria in the second century.

     After returning home, Mrs. Smith embodied the thoughts in a poem of seven stanzas with six lines each beginning, "Tarry with me, O my Savior." She wrote that she sent it to a Mr. Hallock for inclusion in a magazine called The Messenger. However, he returned it, saying that it was "not adapted for the readers of the paper." Sometime later she sent it, without any signature, to the local paper in Andover. Its first publication seems to have been in 1853. It first appeared as a hymn in the 1855 Plymouth Collection of Henry Ward Beecher, with five four-line stanzas. Further alterations were made in the 1862 Songs of the Church.  Six four-line stanzas were used in the 1878 Selection of Spiritual Songs for Use in the Church edited by Charles S. Robinson.

     The tune (Rest–Shaw) used in most of our books was composed by Knowles Shaw (1834-1878). It was first published with Mrs. Smith’s text in his Shining Portals: A Collection of Choice Music for Revivals and Sunday Schools in 1868. He used the second stanza of the original poem as a chorus. Other books have used a tune (St. Sylvester) by John Bacchus Dykes that in most of our books is associated with the hymn "Father, Hear the Prayer We Offer" by Love M. Willis. Nothing further is known about the life of Mrs. Smith, except that she died sometime in 1886, probably at Andover, MA. Shaw is well known for such hymns as "Bringing in the Sheaves" and "I Am the Vine" as well as the tune for "We Saw Thee Not."

     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, with the Dykes tune) 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. Ed., 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.

     The song suggests several reasons why we should want the Savior to tarry with us.

I. Stanza 1 points out that one reason is that the day is passing by
"Tarry with me, O my Savior, For the day is passing by;
See, the shades of evening gather, And the night is drawing nigh."
 A. The day here is not merely the seven 24-hour periods of the week, but refers to the day of life, which is swiftly passing by to be sure: Rom. 13.11-12
 B. Thus, the shades of evening are not merely the coming close of the day but rather the time of old age: Eccl. 12.2-5
 C. And the night is not just the end of the day but rather the end of life: Jn. 9.4-5

II. Stanza 2 points out that one reason is that many friends must pass on and leave us behind
"Many friends were gathered round me In the bright days of the past,
But the grave has closed above them, And I linger here the last."
 A. It is good to have friends in this life to help us: Prov. 18.24
 B. It is also good to remember the bright days of the past, but we must be careful not to live in the past or think that the past is better than the present: Eccl. 7.10
 C. The fact is that the friends of the past are mortal too and often go on before us, leaving us to linger alone; however, there is one Friend who will stay with us no matter what because He has the power of an endless life: Heb. 7.23-24

III. Stanza 3 points out that one reason is that we need His voice to calm us
"Let me hear Thy voice behind me, Calming all these wild alarms;
Let me, underneath my weakness, Feel the everlasting arms."
 A. The voice of Jesus speaks to us through His word to calm our alarms just as His voice spoke to still the storm when He was on earth: Matt. 8.23-27
 B. Certainly, we need such a voice to calm us in times of weakness: 2 Cor. 12.9
 C. When we can hear His voice through the word we can have the assurance of His everlasting arms: Deut. 33.27

IV. Stanza 4 points out that one reason is that we are feeble
"Feeble, trembling, fainting, dying, Lord, I cast myself on Thee.
Tarry with me through the darkness; While I sleep, still watch by me."
 A. Because we are feeble, trembling, fainting, and dying, we should cast all our burdens on the Lord: Ps. 55.22
 B. We can do this with the assurance that the Lord will tarry with us through the darkness of this sinful world: Jn. 3.19-21
 C. Thus, we can trust Him to watch over us even while we sleep: Ps. 121.3-6

V. Stanza 5 points out that one reason is that the night of death advances for every one of us
"Deeper, deeper grow the shadows, Paler now the glowing west;
Swift the night of death advances: Shall it be the night of rest?"
 A. Again, the deepening of the shadows and the paling of the west symbolically refer to the time of old age: Isa. 46.4
 B. While none of us knows exactly the time of his death, we do know that the longer we live, the closer the time of our departure comes: 2 Tim. 4.7
 C. All will die, but death will bring rest only to those who die in the Lord: Rev. 14.13

VI. Stanza 6 points out that one reason is because only Christ can keep us until the morning of eternal rest
"Tarry with Me, O my Savior. Lay my head upon Thy breast
Till the morning; then awake me, Morning of eternal rest."
 A. Each should certainly want to be able to lay his head upon the breast of the Savior knowing that we must die: Heb. 9.27
 B. The morning then refers to the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns: 1 Cor. 15.50-52
 C. Those who truly know Jesus Christ as Savior can thus look forward to the time when the new heaven and new earth with its eternal rest shall dawn for the redeemed: Rev. 21.1-4

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the basic request of the stanzas:
"Tarry with me, blessed Savior; Leave me not till morning light,
For I’m lonely here without Thee. Tarry with me through the night."
Some portions of Mrs. Smith’s original poem that have been omitted in subsequent versions include the following:
"Dimmed for me is earthly beauty; Yet the spirit’s eye would fain
Rest upon Thy lovely features: Shall I seek, dear Lord, in vain?"
"Dull my ear to earth-born music; Speak Thou, Lord, in words of cheer.
Feeble, tottering my footstep, Sinks my heart with sudden fear."
Faithful memory pants before me Every deed and thought of sin;
Open Thou the blood-filled fountain, Cleanse my guilty soul within."
"Tarry with me through the darkness; While I sleep, still watch by me,
Till the morning–then awake me, Dearest Lord, to dwell with Thee."
Life in general is uncertain, and old age especially can be a time of great frustration. So whatever the circumstances of this life that I may find myself in as I grow older, I should ask the Savior to "Tarry With Me."


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