The author was a distinguished clergyman, rector of parishes in Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. He published a number of volumes of poems and hymns. This was written for the confirmation of his two sons and a daughter in 1866, and was immediately taken up in the Church of England as a hymn that gave warm and personal expression to the Christian commitment of those entering upon full Church membership. It well expresses the idealism of such a time, and picks up the words of Jesus in St John 12: 26—‘If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.’ It is not the last word for such occasions. It has nothing of the sense that God moves first towards us and we respond. It is also highly personal, saying nothing of the community of the church within which confirmation takes place and into which the new member moves. But hearing it will bring back to many what they themselves have promised and still wish to promise.
The composer of the tune was at the time organist of Lancing College and it is in that tradition of the stately tune imagined in the first place for a full chapel of young male voices. It has a thrilling lift as the key changes at the beginning of the second half of the verse and this corresponds to a lift in the meaning of the words at that point.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2004