“HE WILL PILOT ME”
“And He arose…and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mk. 4:39)
INTRO.: A song which draws its thought from the account of where Jesus stilled the wind on the sea is “He Will Pilot Me” (#590 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Charles T. Bailey. I have been able to find no further information on this author. The tune was composed by Byron Lawton Whitworth, who was born in 1898, probably in Georgia. I have been able to find almost no information on the composer either, except the following facts. According to the 1920 census, he lived in Gwinnett, GA, and according to the 1930 census, he lived in Fulton, GA. He provided either words or music or both for several songs, including “Grace for Every Need” copyrighted in 1936, owned by Morris and Henson, and published in their Songs of Praise No. 5; “My Lord Will Care for Me,” with tune composed by J. M. Henson, copyrighted in 1939 and published in Songs of the Morning edited by Henson; and “He Filled My Life with Song,” with words by Alfred Barratt, published by Lillenas Publishing Company in Golden Wings. “He Will Pilot Me” was copyrighted in 1955 by J. M. Henson in Fountain of Song. In 1963 it was assigned to Lillenas Publishing Company and, after its renewal in 1983, it was owned by Psalm Singer Music. Whitworth also edited or co-edited songbooks, such as Choice Gospel Songs with James C. Moore, and died in 1962.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Will Pilot Me” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1983 edition of the 1978 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2010 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship.
The song refers to several aspects of our journey through life in which we need Jesus as our Pilot.
I. Stanza 1 mentions the tempestuous sea
Although I cannot see the way
O’er life’s tempestuous sea (dark sea),
I know that Jesus is my Friend
And that he’ll pilot me (pilot me).
A. We cannot see the way because we “do not know what will happen tomorrow”: Jas. 4:14
B. Our journey into the future is often pictured as a tempestuous sea: Ps. 107:23-29
C. However, our Pilot on these uncharted waters is our Friend, Jesus Christ: Jn. 15:13-15
II. Stanza 2 mentions dark clouds
Dark clouds may gather in the sky,
And rough the sea may be (may be);
His love shall ever my song,
I know He’ll pilot me (pilot me).
A. Dark clouds may represent times of sorrow and sadness that we face: 1 Thess. 4:13
B. These times of sadness and sorrow can make life rough: Job 14:1
C. But we can always look to the love of our Pilot, Jesus Christ, to help us sing: Rom. 8:35-39
III. Stanza 3 mentions storms
Dear Lord, whate’er the storm may be
I’ll simply trust in Thee (in Thee),
Relying on Thy love so true
To safely pilot me (pilot me).
A. Storms often symbolize the trials and tribulations of life: Jas. 1:2-3
B. During such storms, we must learn to trust in the Lord: Ps. 37:3-5
C. We can do this because Jesus our Pilot is true and will always be with us: Matt. 28:20
CONCL. The chorus continues to emphasize that Jesus will pilot us from day to day.
He’ll pilot me from day to day
When blinded eyes can’t see the way;
Let come what may on life’s dark sea,
My blessed Lord will pilot me.
I cannot say that I really care for this song. The words are entirely scriptural, but the music is too much like barbershop quartet, especially in the chorus, for my taste. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong or sinful, and I actually happen to like barber shop quartet singing, but I really have to question whether that style is appropriate for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to be used in worship and praise to God. If I wanted a hymn about Jesus as my Pilot, I would prefer the lovely “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” with words by Edward H. Hopper and music by John E. Gould. In any event, as I make my way on the sea of life, I need to live in such a way that I can always say of Jesus that “He Will Pilot Me.”