O Thou in Whose Presence
O Thou in whose presence my soul takes delight,
On whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all.
Where dost Thou at noontide resort with Thy sheep,
To feed on the pastures of love?
Say, why in the valley of death should I weep,
Or alone in the wilderness rove?
O, why should I wander an alien from Thee,
And cry in the desert for bread?
Thy foes will rejoice when my sorrows they see,
And smile at the tears I have shed.
He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice,
And myriads wait for His word;
He speaks, and eternity, filled with His voice,
Re-echoes the praise of her Lord.
Dear Shepherd, I hear and will follow Thy call;
I know the sweet sound of Thy voice.
Restore and defend me, for Thou art my All,
And in Thee I will ever rejoice.
This hymn, written by British pastor Joseph Swain, came to my attention while I was listening to a Fernando Ortega recording of the song. The simple, heartfelt, yet deeply Scriptural lyrics ministered to me at the time, and the almost-hauntingly beautiful poetic melody hushed my spirit and spoke quiet and grace to me. Joseph Swain lived only a short while, dying at age 35 after a brief period of ministry. Swain, an orphan, became converted under the ministry of the preacher John Rippon, and subsequently began to preach the Gospel. Swain died on April 16th, 1796, but his rich, heartfelt and Spirit-led words of truth and encouragement continue to go forward through this beautiful hymn, among other lesser-known hymns and poetry that he wrote during his brief life. Interestingly, his grave stands beside the graves of William Blake and Daniel DeFoe... but his soul rests with the Eternal Father of his heart.
How is this hymn meaningful to believers, past and present?
My sister and I sang this hymn a-cappella for a church service and our voices joined together as we held onto the Lord's promises by faith in the darkness.
The Lord brings us through times of intense darkness, persecution and pain, so that we will see Him and cling to Him. I look back now at that time, and I am grateful for it. He taught me things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light. He taught me to be sensitive to the pain of those around me. He taught me to trust Him in the darkness, trust Him Who is the Light, and our "song in the night."
Fernando Ortega's recording of this hymn from his CD, This Bright Hour:
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