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More Like Jesus

William Howard Doane was a wealthy nineteenth-century industrialist who entered the business world at age sixteen and was president of his own manufacturing company by age twenty-nine. But his real love was music, and he sang solos and directed choirs at various churches around Cincinnati. At age thirty, Doane suffered a terrible heart attack which took him to the edge of the grave. As he recovered, he felt God wanted him to devote more of his time to the ministry of Christian music.

He began compiling and publishing hymn books, and writing musical scores for hymns and gospel songs. But Doane didn’t feel he could compose words suitable to his melodies, and he was always looking for Christian poets who could write lyrics for the Gospel tunes. In November, 1867, in New York, he was asked by Rev. Dr. W. C. Van Meter to write a hymn in celebration of the anniversary of a rescue mission. Doane quickly came up with a melody, but could find no suitable words.

Kneeling in his New York hotel room, he asked God to send him a poem suitable for the anniversary celebration. He also prayed for a poet who could supply an ongoing stream of suitable verse. As he prayed, he heard a knock at the door. Opening it, he saw a messenger boy who handed him an envelope addressed to Mr. William Howard Doane. The letter read: Mr. Doane: I have never met you, but I feel impelled to send you this hymn. May God bless it. Fanny Crosby.

Thus began a relationship that gave the church some of its greatest Gospel hymns: “To God Be the Glory,” “’Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer,” “Tho’ Your Sins Be as Scarlet,” “Pass Me Not,” “Near the Cross,” “Savior More Than Life To Me,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “Will Jesus Find Us Watching?,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and more.

The one enclosed in the letter that day was quickly embraced by congregations around the world:

More like Jesus would I be,

Let my Savior dwell in me,

Fill my soul with peace and love,

Make me gentle as the dove;

More like Jesus while I go,

Pilgrim in this world below;

Poor in spirit would I be;

Let my Savior dwell in me.

More like Jesus when I pray,

More like Jesus day by day

May I rest me by His side,

Where the tranquil waters glide.

Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (104). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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