Guide me, O thou great Redeemer

A hymn to sing along with…

This well-known hymn is based on the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, using extracts from the book of Exodus chapters 13 to 17. It mentions manna (bread of heaven) and the water flowing from the rock that Moses struck with his staff (the crystal fountain). Mount Sinai is the fiery, cloudy pillar.

It is also an allegory for the journey of a Christian through life on earth requiring the Redeemer’s guidance and ending at the gates of Heaven (the verge of Jordan) and also referring to the end of time (death of death and hell’s destruction). In some versions of the text the name “Redeemer” replaces the name “Jehovah”.

It was originally written in Welsh by William Williams (1717-1791) and had six verses.

Although from a nonconformist family, William Williams was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England*, but was refused ordination to the priesthood because of his connection with Methodism. He became a minister in the Calvanistic Methodist of Wales instead.

He is regarded as the premier Welsh hymn writer and is also known as Pantycelyn.

*In 1920, the Anglican Church in Wales was disestablished and is now known as the Church in Wales

The English version of the hymn is based on a translation by Revd Peter Williams (1722-1796) which condensed the text into three verses. Peter Williams was a priest in the Church of England, but he also later became a Calvanistic Methodist. He was not related to William Williams.

The tune associated with the English version of the hymn is Cwm Rhondda, written by John Hughes (1873–1932). It was written in 1907.

Cwm Rhondda

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me now and evermore.
Feed me now and evermore.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.

The Welsh version of the hymn (Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch, – Lord, Lead Me Through the Wilderness) is usually sung to the tune Capel y Ddôl. Here it is, together with the first verse to sing along with.

Capel y Ddôl

Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch
Fi bererin gwael ei wedd,
Nad oes ynwy’ nerth na bywyd
Fel yn gorwedd yn y bedd:
Hollalluog, hollalluog,
Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan.
Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan.

The Welsh hymn normally paired with Cwm Rhondda is

Wele’n sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd
Wrthrych teilwng o fy mryd;
Er o’r braidd ‘rwy’n Ei adnabod
Ef uwchlaw gwrthrychau’r byd:
Henffych fore! Henffych fore!
Caf ei weled fel y mae.
Caf ei weled fel y mae.

Rhosyn Saron yw Ei enw,
Gwyn a gwridog, hardd Ei bryd!
Ar ddeng mil y mae’n rhagori
O wrthddrychau penna’r byd ;
Ffrind pechadur! Ffrind pechadur!
Dyma’r llywydd ar y môr.
Dyma’r llywydd ar y môr.

Beth sydd imi mwy a wnelwyf
Ag eilunod gwael y llawr?
Tystio ‘r wyf nad yw eu cwmni
I’w gymharu a’m Iesu Mawr.
O, am aros! O, am aros!
Yn Ei gariad ddyddiau f’oes!
Yn Ei gariad ddyddiau f’oes!

Lo, between the myrtles standing,
One who merits well my love,
Though His worth I guess but dimly,
High all earthly things above;
Happy morning! Happy morning!
When at last I see Him clear!
When at last I see Him clear!

Rose of Sharon, so men name Him;
White and red his cheeks adorn;
Store untold of earthly treasure
Will His merit put to scorn
Friend of sinners! Friend of sinners!
He their pilot o’er the deep.
He their pilot o’er the deep.

What can weigh with me henceforward
All the idols of the earth?
One and all I here proclaim them,
Matched with Jesus, nothing worth;
O, to rest me! O, to rest me!
All my lifetime in His love!
All my lifetime in His love!

2 thoughts on “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer”

  1. What classic this hymn is! The only problem I found was when I got to the last verse , the trumpet coming in made me lose the tune . Not to worry , thoroughly enjoyed singing along to the first 2 verses with a hint of Welsh in my voice. My grandmother , Mary Jones , was Welsh so I am quarter Welsh with a bit of Irish, Scottish and English in my ancestry . !!!

  2. I think the “fiery, cloudy pillar” actually refers to the “pillar of fire” and the “pillar of cloud” that was said to precede and follow the children of Israel whenever they set off on their journeys? But anyway, a brilliant hymn to sing along with in whatever language! 🙂 Thank you!

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