"WHERE HE LEADS ME"
"…Let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16.24)
INTRO." A song which well expresses the idea of denying ourselves, taking up the cross, and following Jesus is, "Where He Leads Me" (#334 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #639 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Ernest W. Blandy, a 19th-century author about whom no other information is available. His name is often misspelled Blandly. The tune (Norris) was composed by John Samuel Norris, who was born on Dec. 4, 1844, at West Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the English Channel off the coast of England, the son of John and Harriet Chalk Norris. Moving to Canada, he was educated there and began to serve as a Methodist minister at Oshawa, Ontario, in 1868. For ten years he served Methodist churches in Ontario, Canada, and Wisconsin.
In 1870, Norris was married to Elizabeth Ann Hurd in Sunderland, Ontario, Canada, and seven children were born to this home. Several years later, in 1878, he became a member of the Congregational Church and for five years served as a Congregationalist minister in the United States with churches in Wisconsin at Mondovi, Hixton, Grand Rapids, and Shullsburg. Then from 1882 to 1901, he served churches in Iowa at Ames, Webster City, Parkersburg, Peterson, and Tripoli.
Norris published one collection of hymns, Songs of the Soul, but of the more than 100 hymns which he produced, only "Where He Leads Me" remains in common usage. It is not known exactly when it first appeared, but in many older collections it bears the copyright date of 1890. If this indicates the approximate date of its publication, it occurred during or immediately following the two years that Norris was with the Congregational Church in Webster City, IA. In 1901 Norris moved to Chicago, IL, where he remained until his death on Sept. 23, 1907.
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 1917 Selected Revival Hymns (where it is titled "The Way of the Cross") published by F. L. Rowe; 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. 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; 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 song explains several reasons why we should follow after Jesus.
I. Stanza 1 says that we shouild follow Jesus because He calls us
"I can hear my Savior calling, I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling, ‘Take thy cross and follow, follow me."
A. Certainly, Jesus calls us to come to Him: Mt. 11.28-30
B. And we need to hear His call: Jn. 5.24-25
C. Specifically He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him: Lk. 9.23
II. Stanza 2 says that we should follow Jesus because He will lead us through the garden
"I’ll go with Him through the garden, I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden, I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way."
A. The garden evidently refers to the suffering that Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane: Mt. 25.36-39
B. The Bible teaches that we also will experience suffering in this life: 2 Tim. 3.12
C. Going with Jesus through the garden would simply mean that we must be willing to suffer whatever comes our way on this earth: Phil. 1.29-30
III. Stanza 3 says that we should follow Jesus because He will lead us through the judgment
"I’ll go with Him through the judgment, I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him through the judgment, I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way."
A. The judgment apparently refers to Jesus’ trials before the Jewish leaders and Pilate: Mt. 27.22-26
B. Today, Jesus can be our Savior, but there will come a day when He will be our judge: Acts 17.30-31
C. To go with Him through the judgment should remind us that just as He stood before Pilate, so someday we shall all stand before God in judgment: Rom. 14.10-12
IV. Stanza 4 says that we shouild follow Jesus because He will give us grace and glory
"He will give me grace and glory, He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory, And go with me, with me all the way."
A. Grace would seem to refer to the spiritual blessings that Jesus gives His people now: Eph. 1.3-7
B. Glory would seem to refer to the eternal blessings that He will give His people in heaven: Eph. 2.5-7
C. And as we enjoy these spiritual blessings here in preparation for the eternal blessings of heaven, Jesus has promised to go with us all the way: Matt. 28.20
CONCL.: The chorus then sets forth the resolve that each of us should have in following Jesus.
"Where He leads me I will follow, Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow, I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way."
Perhaps because Blandy’s text seems somewhat repetitive, a new set of words, entitled "Follow All the Way," was provided Elisha A. Hoffman, who is best remembered as the hymn writer who gave us "Are You Washed in the Blood?", "Is Thy Heart Right With God?", and "I Must Tell Jesus," as well as the texts for John H. Stockton’s "Glory to His Name" and Anthony J. Showalter’s "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."
1. "I can hear my Savior calling, In the tenderst accents calling;
On my ear these words are falling, ‘Take thy cross and daily follow me.’"
2. "Though the way be dark and dreary, Though my feet be worn and weary,
Yet my heart keeps bright and cheery, As I follow, follow all the way."
3. "Jesus, ever go before me, Shining heaven’s sunlight o’er me,
And when weak by grace restore me, As I follow, follow all the way."
4. "Through the valley safely lead me, Heavenly manna daily feed me;
Every hour, dear Lord, I need Thee, As I follow, follow all the way."
5. "In Thy heart’s affection hold me, In Thy arms of love enfold me,
And with Thine own grace uphold me, As I follow, follow all the way."
6. "Through death’s dark and gloomy portal, Leaving there this body mortal,
Into yonder home immortal, I will follow, follow all the way."
Chorus: "I will take my cross and follow, My dear Savior I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow; I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way."
God sent Jesus Christ from heaven to this earth that He might live as our example, die as our sacrifice, and thus become our Savior. Jesus wants us to follow Him, through our sufferings in this life and the judgment to come; and if we do, He has promised to give us grace and glory, both now and in eternity. Therefore, my response should be that I will go "Where He Leads Me."