Palmer wrote these lyrics upon receiving a vision of Christ shortly after his graduation from Yale University, while working as a tutor at a New York school. However, he kept them to himself until meeting Lowell Mason on a street in Boston, Massachusetts.
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When Mason asked him to write something for a new hymnal, Palmer dug out his old notes and produced these lyrics, written two years earlier. After taking the lyrics home and reading them, Mason composed this tune.
Several days later he saw Palmer again and said, You may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of My Faith Looks Up to Thee.
Mrs. Layyah Barakat, a native of Syria, was educated in Beirut and then taught for a time in Egypt. Driven out in 1882 by the insurrection of Arabi Pasha, she, with her husband and child, came to America by way of Malta and Marseilles.
Her history is a strange illustration of God’s providential care, as they were without any direction or friends in Philadelphia when they landed.
But the Lord took them into His own keeping, and brought them to those who had known of her in Syria. While in this country she frequently addressed large audiences, to whom her deep earnestness and broken but piquant English proved unusually attractive.
Among other incidents she related that she had been permitted to see the conversion of her whole family, who were Maronites of Mount Lebanon. Her mother, sixty-two years of age, had been taught ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee’ in Arabic.
They would sit on the house roof and repeat it together; and when the news came back to Syria that the daughter was safe in America, the mother could send her no better proof of her faith and love than in the beautiful words of this hymn, assuring her that her faith still looked up to Christ.
Sutherland, pp. 77–79
My faith looks up to Thee,Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,O let me from this day be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impartStrength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!
While life’s dark maze I tread,And griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide;Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life’s transient dream,When death’s cold sullen stream shall o’er me roll;Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!