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Pop A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Psalter

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Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Deuteronomy 33:27
SHOWALTER  |  Hymn History  |  Bible Passage
Author: Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929
Musician: Anthony J. Showalter, 1858-1924

  Play MP3 • Click to listen to the music for this hymn.

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms!
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms!

Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms!
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms!

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms!
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.


There was a time in America when only those who could afford private lessons were able to sing by music There were few songbooks, and church-goers depended on songleaders to set the tune of the hymn and call out the words, line by line, while the congregations sang after them. The same practice is still followed in the highlands of Scotland to this day at funerals and on certain other occasions.

But back to our American story.

Through the persistent representations of a musician called Lowell Mason music became an official subject in the schools. Songbooks were published and trained music-masters were sent into rural America to teach the people how to sing.

Professor A.J. Showalter was one such music-master.

One day in 1887, after music class had been dismissed, he collected his books, locked up the church house where they met and made his way across town to the boarding house where he had put up for his brief stay in Hartselle, Alabama.

When he arrived, two letters from former students in South Carolina were waiting for him.

Showalter read the first letter. It bought the sad news that this student had just recently and suddenly lost his wife. The professor left the letter aside and decided to answer it later.

Opening the second one he found that it brought news identical to that of the first. What a tragic coincidence! Two former students had each been plunged into tragedy, through the same circumstances, and on the same day.

In an effort to console his two young friends Showalter wrote: "'The eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms'." He paused, and put down his pen.

In that single line of Scripture lay the theme of a great hymn. His pupils could read music, and they could sing - for he had taught them. Then why not write them a song of comfort instead of a letter? Quickly he wrote the chorus:

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms,
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Professor Showalter sent the chorus off to the Rev. Elisha Hoffman in Pennsylvania, and Hoffman - himself the author of over 2,000 hymns, very soon produced three beautiful verses.

When Showalter received Hoffman's finished work he wrote the music for it and another great hymn was born.

We don't have any record of what effect the song message had on those for whom it was written but we do know it has been a great blessing to thousands ever since.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.


27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.

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