“Hold Thou My Hand”

"Lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness…." (Ps. 5:8)

     INTRO.: A hymn which asks the Lord to lead us in His righteousness in "Hold Thou My Hand" (#373 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #60 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Frances Jane Crosby VanAlstyne, better known as Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). Originally published under one of her pennames, Grace J. Frances, it is dated 1879. Fanny wrote, "For a number of days before I wrote this hymn, all had seemed dark to me. That was indeed an unusual experience, for I have always been most cheerful; and so in my human weakness I cried in prayer, ‘Dear Lord, hold Thou my hand.’ Almost at once the sweet peace that comes of perfect assurance returned to my heart, and my gratitude for this evidence of answered prayer sang itself in the lines of the hymn." The tune (Main) was composed by Hubert Platt Main, who was born at Ridgefield, CN, on Aug. 17, 1839, the son of a well-known singing school teacher, Sylvester (Vet) Main, who had been a childhood friend of Miss Crosby’s.

     Sylvester Main was associated in various publishing endeavors with Isaac Baker Woodbury and William Batchelder Bradbury. Though scarcely educated, Hubert (Hugh) gained invaluable knowledge in the music business through his association with publishers Philip Phillips of Cincinnati, OH, and F. J. Huntington of New York City, NY. In 1866, he assisted Phillips in the compilation of the Methodist Episcopal Hymn and Tune Book. In 1867, he joined the William B. Bradbury Co. of New York. After the death of Bradbury the following year, a new firm was formed known as Biglow and Main as Bradbury’s successor, with Hubert’s father as junior partner. Hubert remained with this company throughout his life and was able to continue his father’s work. With but few exceptions, every publication of the firm passed through his hands, either in being compiled, edited, or proofread. He became an authority on music copyrights, and because of his intimate knowledge of these matters his counsel was was frequently sought by other publishers.

     Main compiled numerous gospel songbooks and is credited with more than a thousand compositions. His most famous hymn tune was produced in 1873 from a melody attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and is usually set to "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken" of Henry Frances Lyte. Main’s tune for Miss Crosby’s "Hold Thou My Hand" was produced in 1880 and the song was first published in the 1881 hymnbook Good as Gold: A New Collection of Sunday School Songs, compiled by Robert Lowry and William Howard Doane. However, Main’s greatest contribution to American hymns was through his role as a publisher and hymnologist. He left his personal collection of old music and hymnbooks to the Newberry Library of Chicago, IL, and it is known as the Main Collection. The publishing concerns of Biglow and Main were purchased in 1920 by the Hope Publishing Company of Chicago. Main
died at Newark, NJ, on Oct. 7, 1925.

     This is perhaps one of Miss Crosby’s lesser known songs. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1925 edition of 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; and 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. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann, in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     This song asks the Lord to be with us through our trials and tribulations on the journey of life.

I. Stanza 1 teaches us that we need the Lord because we are weak and helpless
"Hold Thou my hand, so weak I am, and helpless,
I dare not take one step without Thine aid;
Hold Thou my hand, for then, O loving Savior,
No dread of ill shall make my soul afraid."
 A. Like the Psalmist, all of us, at one time or another, find ourselves weak: Ps. 6.1-2
 B. The reason for this is that we are unable to direct our own steps: Jer. 10.23
 C. However, when the Lord holds our hand, we have nothing to be afraid of: Heb. 13.6

II. Stanza 2 teaches that we need the Lord because we are prone to wander
"Hold Thou my hand, and closer, closer draw me
To Thy dear self, my hope, my joy, my all;
Hold Thou my hand, lest haply I should wander,
And, missing Thee, my trembling feet shall fall."
 A. It is important for us to draw closer and closer to the Lord: Jas. 4.8
 B. The Lord should be our hope, our joy, our all because He is the way, the truth, and the life: Jn. 14.6
 C. However, due to sin in our lives, all of us have wandered away from the Lord like sheep and need to make sure that we return to Him: 1 Pet. 2.25

III. Stanza 3 teaches that we need the Lord because the way is dark
"Hold Thou my hand, the way is dark before me
Without the sunlight of Thy face divine;
But when by faith I catch its radiant glory,
What heights of joy, what rapturous songs are mine!"
 A. The way is often dark because this world is pictured as a place of darkness: Jn. 3.19
 B. However, Jesus Christ came to bring the sunlight of His face divine: Jn. 1.1-5
 C. When we see the sunshine of His face, it will bring joy and rapture to our lives: Phil. 4.4

IV. Stanza 4 teaches us that we need the Lord because He can help us cross the river of death
"Hold Thou my hand, that when I reach the margin
Of that lone river Thou didst cross for me,
A heavenly light may flash along its waters,
And every wave like crystal bright shall be."
 A. Reaching the margin of the river is symbolic of the time of death: Heb. 9.27
 B. However, Jesus has already crossed that same river before us and so He can deliver us from the fear of death: Heb. 2.14-15
 C. Thus, for the one who follows Jesus, death will not bring darkness but the heavenly light of God’s rest for His people: Rev.

     CONCL.: Even though perhaps it is not as well known as others of her hymns, this song by Fanny Crosby is more introspective than some, and Platt’s tune is a perfect vehicle for it.  It is interesting that the blind Miss Crosby would write about seeing, by faith of course, the radiant glory of Christ now and ultimately seeing the heavenly light after death. We certainly need the the hand of the Lord to guide us spiritually. In Psa. 119.17 David wrote, "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be saved." This He does by guiding us through His revealed word. And as I follow His teaching, I continually need to be asking Him, "Hold Thou My Hand."


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