In one of President Boyd K. Packer’s last General Conference talks, he said, “There is in our hymnbook a very old and seldom-sung hymn that has very special meaning to me.” He goes on to quote the entire text of “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy”. It’s in our hymnbook arranged for men, but it is a hymn for everyone.
Here is its story, taken from here.
A long time ago, noted preacher Dwight Moody told his congregation a story about a boat, helplessly rocking and plunging on a stormy, starless night near the Cleveland harbor. The mariners on board could see the lighthouse, but they needed to find their way through the narrow passage in the treacherous rocks that surrounded the harbor. Normally a light on the shore, aligned with the lighthouse, marked the passage to safety. But on this night, the lower lights had gone out.
Finally, the desperate captain decided they had no choice but to proceed into the harbor without the guidance of the lower lights. “With a strong hand and brave heart”—but in almost total darkness—“the old pilot turned the wheel.” Tragically, he missed the channel, crashed the boat upon the rocks, and lost the lives of his sailors.1
Moody then explained the lesson to be learned from his story: the Master will take care of the great lighthouse, but He depends on us to keep the lower lights burning. Philip Paul Bliss was directing the singing at the meeting that night and was so inspired by Moody’s story that he wrote what would become one of his most popular hymns, “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.” He also composed the music, a hymn tune known as “Lower Lights,” which was first published in 1871.
With the story in mind, now look at the lyrics and give it a listen. 🙂
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
Now, let’s listen. I have a soft spot for the BYU Men’s Chorus, having married one of its former members, so I must share their performance of this hymn with you.
Aubree Liz slays it:
If you like a capella, you may like this one.
This one is exceedingly heartfelt and I love it.
Painting is Lighthouse at Stora Bält (1846) by Anton Melbye
Jenna Dilts is a mother of three pre-school-aged children. Last year she led a discussion of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles on the AO forum. You can find her blogging at To Work Wonders, where she is currently working through AO year 1 for herself.
One thought to “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy”
Great. I’m a Methodist from Ghana. I’ve tried to understand this hymn on my own until now. It’s full of meaning to me. Thank you.