Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Story Behind Leaning on the Everlasting Arms


Anthony Showalter was leading a singing school in an Alabama church in 1887. When he returned to his boardinghouse room one night, two letters awaited him. Both were from former students, and both men told of the recent loss of their wives. Mr. Showalter wrote back, seeking to comfort the young men in the midst of their grief.

But what to write? When he came to the end of each letter, he wanted to include a Bible verse. He picked Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms ….”

He pondered the words of that verse as he penned them into the letters, and the lyrics of the chorus of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms came to his mind. He wrote to his friend, Elisha Hoffman, explaining that he had a chorus, but no verses. Mr. Hoffman wrote back with the rest of the words of this famous hymn.

Sam Duncan, a student and nephew of Mr. Showalter, was given the class assignment to write the tune for this poem. The piece was published under his uncle's name in the book Glad Evangel for Revival, Camp and Evangelistic Meeting Hymnal.

5 comments:

  1. I cry almost every time I sing this song as I also have been leaning on the Everlasting arms of or Lord through out my most difficult life after a head on car accident going 65 miles per hour and my body was crushed head to toe .It always strengthens me when I sing this song.

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  2. I cry almost every time I sing this song as I also have been leaning on the Everlasting arms of or Lord through out my most difficult life after a head on car accident going 65 miles per hour and my body was crushed head to toe .It always strengthens me when I sing this song.

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  3. Is the second man pictured Elisha Hoffman or Sam Duncan? I assume the first picture is Anthony Showalter.

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  4. May the good Lord bless every soul that leans on the everlasting arms

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  5. I was surprised to find tonight ( my mother died earlier this week) that the tune writer for a very fundamentalist non worldly song that I sung at my dad's funeral in 1995 was Arthur S. Sullivan the Broadway composer. Arthur was better known as part of the team of Gilbert and Sullivan. The song for my dad's funeral was "I am but a Stranger Here." Arthur Sullivan wrote the tune for "I am but a Stranger Here" as he did for Onward Christian Soldiers. There are two tunes for "I am but a Stranger Here." The one Arthur Sullivan wrote is named Saint Edmund. St.Edmund is the tune I'm used to and the better tune. The Mennonite song site S E Samonte doesn't list the author of the tune for "I am but a Stranger Here." Perhaps it is because Arthur Sullivan of Broadway's Gilbert and Sullivan had an immoral non-married life with women. SE Samonte just lists Thomas Rawson Taylor as the author of the words. No one is listed for the music or tune for I am but a Stranger Here." I'm at this site because the words and music for "Are you washed in the Blood" were created by Elisha Hoffman who wrote the lyrics but not the tune for the song at this site - "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms". Elisha Hoffman's song "Are you washed in the Blood" was going through my mind earlier this evening. Hymns are such a comfort in the times of the death of a loved one. I think in old age they help also to pass the time spiritually. Our Collective Christian Hymn Book is a forgotten resource of encouragement and spirituality. I'm suggesting hymns as devotions or for devotional reading. Using our Christian hymns as devotionals is under-appreciated. So often hymns , like the story described here behind "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" are from tragedies. Isn't it amazing what God can birth from tragedy ? Is it even necessary to have a tragedy to birth a great hymn? It seems so common. To answer KC's question the lower picture is Elisha Hoffman. They are probably going to arrest me for elder abuse for my mother. Keep praying that I get out of Satan's trap. Let's see what happens as the months go by. I might be in prison , I might not. My circumstance is in the heavenlies like Job's.Pray in that context. I believe that World War I ended on the feast day of Martin of Tours ,the most famous pacifist, because of an anointing on me. It's a long story. The Job-level part of my story started with an earthquake in my town two Wednesdays after the Amish type Church in my town caused me to stop coming because of the actions against me by a song leader of the congregation. Sandy Hook in Connecticut was the same thing. Sandy Hook came two weeks after I was put out of a Saturday Bible study at the Lutheran Church I grew up at.

    Yours in the Lord ,
    Matt C.

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