Keeping the Hymns Close By

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

Author – Civilla D. Martin, 1866 – 1948
Composer – Charles Gabriel, 1856 – 1932
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Matthew 10:29

Civilla Durfee Martin was born in Nova Scotia and died in Atlanta, Georgia. Civilla was a schoolteacher with modest musical training, but when she married Dr. Walter Martin, an evangelist, she gave up teaching to travel with him and assist in his meetings.. Together they often wrote gospel songs for revival meetings. “Be not dismayed” is an example of their collaboration. Walter received his education at Harvard. He taught at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in Wilson, NC before moving to Atlanta in 1919, a location that became the base for revivals that he held throughout the U.S.The song was obviously inspired by Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Later in Matthew (10:29-31), the Gospel writer continues on this theme: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Similar thoughts are cited in Luke 12:6-7. Stanza two quotes part of John 14:1 directly, “Let not your heart be troubled…”

This is her account of the writing of this song:

Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle–true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years, Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it, Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience.

The next day she mailed the poem to Charles Gabriel, a famous composer of gospel songs, who wrote a tune for it. It is one of the most influential and often-recorded gospel hymns of the 20th century. Civilla Martin also wrote another great hymn about God’s care in 1904, “God Will Take Care of You”.

Taken from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2003 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson
Taken from 101 Hymn Stories Copyright © 1982, 2012 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles Gabriel

Charles Gabriel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civilla Martin

Civilla Martin