Keeping the Hymns Close By

Our Great Savior

Author – Daniel C. Roberts, 1841 – 1907
Composer – George W. Warren, 1828 – 1902
Tune Name – “National Hymn”
The hymn was first published in 1892

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

This patriotic hymn was written by an American Episcopalian minister in 1876. Daniel C. Roberts was the pastor of a small rural church in Brandon, Vermont. He wrote the hymn to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence and was sung for the first time at Brandon’s Fourth of July celebration to the music of the old, Russian national anthem, which is known as the “Russian Hymn”. This hymn recognizes God’s providential guidance of our nation in the past and our need for reliance on Him for the future.

Later, Roberts submitted his text anonymously to the committee revising the Episcopal hymnal. If the group accepted his hymn, Roberts said he would send them his name. The commission approved it, and it was included in the 1892 edition with the “Russian Hymn” tune.

At the time of our national Centennial observance commemorating the adoption of the Constitution, Robert’s hymn text was chosen as the official hymn for that event. The committee commissioned the organist of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City, George William Warren, to compose an original tune for Robert’s text. This new tune, with its dramatic trumpet calls before each stanza, contributed to the growing popularity of the hymn. George was an accomplished organist, serving churches in Albany, Brooklyn, and New York City. He also composed various anthems and hymn tunes. The hymn first appeared with its new tune, the “National Hymn,” in 1894, in the official hymnal of the Episcopal Church, and Robert’s text has been used exclusively with this music to the present time.

Taken from 101 More Hymn Stories Copyright © 1985, 2013 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.