The words of this hymn were written by Richard Baxter (1615–1691) and later altered by John Hampden Gurney (1802–1862), Prebendary at St Paul’s in 1857 whose works include Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship
(1852). Richard Baxter was a military chaplain during the Civil War and the author of two books which played an important part in the Evangelical tradition of England and America. In 1638 he was made a deacon by the Bishop of Worcester and several years later was offered a bishopric, which he refused. He then suffered a term of imprisonment from 1685/6 and was fined by Judge Jeffreys on the charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase of The New Testament
(1685). The tune to this hymn is named after its composer, the Reverend John Darwall (1731–1789).
from notes by Sarah Langdon © 1999