John Keble (1792-1866) was born in the tiny village of Fairford, Gloucestershire, Scotland. He was the son of a pious and humble country vicar and a Godly mother. His father contributed much to his education before he won a scholarship to Oxford at the age of 15. Within 3 years of his entry at Oxford, Keble had won 2 first prizes, one for Latin and the other for his "Essay" in English.
Keble remained at Oxford as a professor until the death of his mother, when he went to be his father's curate at Coln St. Aldwyn, near Fairford. It was here in peaceful surroundings of gentle rolling hills of green that Keble was inspired to write much of his best poetry.
As he took his walks in the early morning or evening, his mind seemed to be washed of all the cares of the world, and his soul was alone with his God and his Savior. In the course of time the young curate found that he had a poem for every day of the year, and his 'Christian Year' was the result. The 'Christian Year' went through 8 editions during the author's lifetime, and it was at one time the most frequently read book of poems in the English language.
The most popular of his hymns, "Sun of My Soul", was first published in the same volume. The hymn was written November 25, 1820, and originally it had 14 verses. The prophet Malachi called the Messiah the Sun of Righteousness, who would rise with healing in His wings. So Keble was using a familiar title for Jesus when he wrote this poem.
Throughout his ministry, Keble was known as an outstanding preacher and a careful Bible scholar. He wrote over 700 hymns. In 1869 Keble College was founded at Oxford University as a tribute to him..
Upon one occasion the poet, Tennyson, was entertaining a friend in his garden. His friend had asked him what he thought of Christ, and the poet was silent for a time. Then leaning over a flower, he said, "What the sun is to that flower, Jesus Christ is to my soul. He is the Sun of my Soul." And so whether the expression was original with Keble or whether he borrowed it from Tennyson, it doesn't really matter. As we bow our hearts and sing the hymn, we seem strangely warmed by the Sun of Righteousness.
In "Famous Hymns of the World," Allan Sutherland tells this story of Keble's hymn: "In a wild night a gallant ship went to her doom. A few women and children were placed in a boat, without oars or sails, and drifted away at the mercy of the waves. Earlier in the evening, before the darkness had quite settled down, brave men on the shore had seen the peril of the vessel and had put out in the face of the tempest, hoping to save human life, but even the ship could not be found. After fruitless search, they were about returning to the shore, when out on the water, and above the wail of the storm, they heard a woman's clear voice singing:
"Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear,
It is not night, if Thou be near."
The work of rescue was quickly accomplished. But for the singing, in all probability, this boatload of lives would have drifted beyond human help or been dashed to pieces before morning.
May this old poem/hymn be your daily prayer as you place your daily confidence for guidance and safety in the Lord. May He be your companion through the dark night as well as through the busy day.
1 Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear,
It is not night if Thou be near;
Oh, may no earthborn cloud arise
To hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes.
2 When the soft dews of kindly sleep
My wearied eyelids gently steep,
Be my last thought how sweet to rest
Forever on my Savior's breast.
3 Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without Thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without Thee I dare not die.
4 Come near, and bless us when we wake,
Ere through the world our way we take;
Till in the ocean of Thy love
We lose ourselves in Thee above.
You can listen to it here. SUN