Keeping the Hymns Close By

Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us

Author – attributed to Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779 – 1847
Composer – William B. Bradbury, 1816 – 1868
Scripture Reference – Psalm 23, John 10:1 – 18
Written in 1836Y

For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16,17

William B. Bradbury

This hymn, originally for children, first appeared in an 1836 volume entitled Hymns for the Young, compiled by Dorothy A Thrupp. Dorothy was born in London, June 20, 1779. She was a British psalmist, hymn writer, and translator and is particularly remembered as a writer of hymns for children. “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” is a hymn that shows the essence and message of a caring Christ who loves all His children. In the first stanza, we see Jesus portrayed as a shepherd offering care and guidance to His flock as well as preparing for service and the Christian life. This is followed by an acknowledgment that we belong to Christ. Thrupp alludes to Psalm 23 – “pleasant pastures” – and draws upon the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1- 18).

The second stanza shows that we are not only possessed by Christ, but we are also in fellowship with Him. He is our defender and guide. Thrupp also alludes to the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12 – 14, Luke 15:3 – 7), especially in the phrase, “seek us when we go astray.”

The third stanza offers a wonderful picture of the salvation message of Christ – that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love and there is no sin too great to keep us separated from God: “Thou has promised to receive us; poor and sinful though we be…”.

Stanza four reminds us that the original focus of the hymn was on children with references to seeking Christ early in life: “Early let us seek Thy favor; Early let us do Thy will…”. Thrupp advocated for an early and honest following of Christ that leads us to a place of service and following God’s will.

It was more than twenty years later that the tune was composed by the American musician William Bradbury (1816 – 1868). He worked in New York City encouraging the Christian musical education of children. He organized and led children’s singing conventions, encouraged music in the New York school system, and published Sunday school songbooks.

Bradbury set in motion a great change in American church music. Prior to his work, most hymns were heavy, noble, and stately. His compositions were softer, full of movement, and easier for children to sing. In so doing, William Bradbury helped usher in the era of gospel music. He may not have realized that adults would sing his hymns as readily as children would, but he paved the way for the likes of Fanny Crosby and Ira Sankey. Today Bradbury is remembered as the musical composer of such favorites as “He Leadeth Me,” “The Solid Rock,” “Just As I Am,” “Jesus Loves Me” (all previous KHCB Hymns of the Month) and “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Used by permission from “History of Hymns” by J. Braxton Kubasko, a Master of Sacred Music student of .Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program and Distinguished Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.