I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand. ~ Exodus 33:22
William J. Kirkpatrick grew up in a musical atmosphere. In 1854 he went to Philadelphia to study music and learn a trade but he was more interested in music than mechanics and devoted all his leisure time to its study. He became proficient on the violin and cello. In 1855 Kirkpatrick joined the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and from then on devoted himself to sacred music, becoming a major influence on the formation of church music. He led the choir; served in Sunday school; and played for many events outside his church. He published some 100 major works and many annual productions such as Easter and Christmas and children’s choirs. Kirkpatrick and John R. Sweney published over eighty Gospel song collections during a seventeen year period.
Young William became interested in the camp meeting songs that had been passed down orally from previous generations and put the melodies on paper. His first collection, Devotional Melodies, contained those songs and had a major influence on the Wesleyan/Holiness Movement. Trevecca Nazarene University hymnody scholar Fred Mund wrote that, “Kirkpatrick’s influence was greatly felt through those early years. Although not a Nazarene, he did much to give the church a spiritual heritage from which it could grow.”
In 1890 Fanny Crosby was living in a New York City apartment and attending the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church. Kirkpatrick had composed the melody to her text, "Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It." One day he visited to show her a new tune he had just completed and asked her to write some suitable words. When he played the melody for her Fanny's face lit up. She knelt in prayer, then arose and soon gave him the lines of this hymn. It first appeared in The Finest of the Wheat, No. 1, which Kirkpatrick compiled with George D. Elderkin, R. R. McCabe, and John Robson Sweney. The last phrase of the first verse illustrates Fanny's triumph over her blindness.
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land.
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.
- Fanny Crosby, 1890
Copied from Sing to the Lord, Pg. 572, © 1993 by Lillenas Publishing Company*
Hymn commentary courtesy J. D. Sherrow
*Another source for this hymn: “Worship in Song” Copyright © 1972 by Lillenas Publishing Company, Page 46.