“Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart”

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11)

     INTRO.: A hymn which talks about the importance of God’s word to us and of the need to hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against the Lord is “Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart.” The text, based on Psalm 119, was adapted and the tune (Eola) was composed both by Ernest Orlando Sellers, who was born at Hastings, MI, on Oct. 29, 1869, the son of William A. and Kate Armstrong Sellers. Following his graduation from high school at Lansing, MI, he became an apprentice to a surveyor and civil engineer. Five years later, he was appointed city engineer and superintendent of public works. Converted at the Lansing YMCA, he enrolled as a student with the Moody Bible Institute at Chicago, IL, in 1895. From 1901 to 1905, he served as a YMCA secretary at Macon, GA, then Washington, DC, and finally Wilmington, DE. For the next two years, he was an assistant minister with the Euclid Ave. Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH, but in 1908 he returned to Moody as an assistant director of the Music Department for the next ten years.

     It was that year that Sellers paraphrased portions of Psalm 119 for this hymn. Stanza 1 is based on verse 105, stanza two on verses 89 and 90, stanza three on verses 164, 62, and 57, with the chorus on verse 11.  Its first publication seems to have been in Daniel Brink Towner’s 1909 New Ideal Song and Hymn Book. During his time at Moody, he was also active as a song leader in the evangelistic campaigns of R. A. Torrey, Gipsy Smith, A. C. Dixon, and J. Wilbur Chapman. In 1918 and 1919, he was a member of the YMCA Speakers Bureau for France and Germany during World War I. Following that, he became director of the Music Department of the Bible Baptist Institute (now the New Orleans Theological Seminary) in New Orleans, LA, where he spent the rest of his life. During his years at the Seminary, he produced many articles, poems, and other hymns. In 1921, he provided a tune for words by Anna B. Russell entitled “A Song in the Heart” and beginning, “There is never a day so dreary” to create the hymn “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus,” perhaps his best known work.  His other published works include Personal Evangelism in 1923; How to Improve Church Music in 1928; Elements of Music Notation and Conducting in 1938; and Worship, Why and How in 1941. He was a member of the committee which compiled The New Baptist Hymnal of 1926.

     After the copyright to “Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart” was renewed in 1936 it was owned by Broadman Press. Following Sellers’s retirement in 1945, he lived at Eola, LA, where the discovery of oil on his property added greatly to the financial security of his later years, prior to his death at his home, “Bayou Grove,” at Eola on Oct. 19, 1952. 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 1996 Blessed Fountain edited by M. Lynwood Smith. Among other hymnbooks of my collection, I have seen it in the 1927 Church Hymnal (Mennonite) published by the Mennonite Publishing House; the 1940 Broadman Hymnal, and the 1964 Christian Praise, both published by Broadman Press; the 1951 Inspiring Hymns, the 1968 Great Hymns of the Faith, and the 1979 Praise: Our Songs and Hymns, all published by Singspiration Music; the 1961 Trinity Hymnal published by Great Commission Publications; the 1966 Crusader Hymns published by Hope Publishing Company; the 1967 Favorite Hymns of Praise published by Tabernacle Publishing Company; the 1968 American Service Hymnal published by John T. Benson Publishing Company; the 1972 Living Hymns published by Encore Publications Inc.; and the 1972 Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns published by Sword of the Lord Publishers.

     The song identifies some of the blessings that God’s word brings to those who have it in their hearts.

I. Stanza 1 says that it guides and saves us
“Thy Word is a lamp to my feet,
A light to my path alway,
To guide and to save me from sin,
And show me the heavenly way.”
 A. God gave us His word to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our pathway: Ps. 119:105
 B. As a lamp, it provides what we need to know in order to be saved: Jas. 1:21
 C. And as a light, it shows us the strait and narrow way that leads to heaven: Matt. 7:13-14

II. Stanza 2 says that it tells us about God’s faithfulness
“Forever, O Lord, is Thy Word
Established and fixed on high;
Thy faithfulness unto all men
Abideth forever nigh.”
 A. God’s word is forever settled in heaven: Ps. 119:89
 B. It reveals His faithfulness that endures to all generations: Ps. 119:90
 C. The principles of this word continue and abide even to this day: Ps.

III. Stanza 3 says that it reveals that the Lord is our portion
“At morning, at noon, and at night,
I ever will give Thee praise,
For Thou art my portion, O Lord,
And shall be through all my days.”
 A. At all times during the day we should praise God because of His righteous judgments: Ps. 119:164
 B. Even at midnight, we can give Him thanks for His wondrous precepts: Ps. 119:62
 C. The reason is that they remind us that God is our portion when we keep His words: Ps. 119:57

IV. Stanza 4 says that it foretells the coming of the Savior
“Through Him Whom Thy Word hath foretold,
The Savior and Morning Star,
Salvation and peace have been brought
To those who have strayed afar.”
 A. The word of the Old Testament foretold the coming of the Messiah: Acts 3:24
 B. This one is the Savior and Morning Star, bringing God’s full light to mankind: Rev. 22:16
 C. Therefore, He is the only one who can give salvation and peace to those who have strayed: Eph. 2:14-18

     CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes the necessity of having this word in our hearts to help us not to sin against the Lord.
“Thy Word have I hid in my heart
That I might not sin against Thee;
That I might not sin, that I might not sin,
Thy word have I hid in my heart.”
This is a wonderful hymn in which the words, which are directly based upon the scriptures, and music fit together exceptionally well, and it is a pity that it has not been included in more of our books. There is always a need for songs which remind me of the importance of knowing and following God’s word by which I can tell Him, “Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart.”


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