Hymn Story

Lead On, O King Eternal

Hymn lists

by book of Bible

When Ernest Shurtleff’s seminary class was preparing for their graduation, they turned to Ernest, who had written two volumes of poetry, and asked him to write a hymn for their graduation ceremony.  He wrote “Lead on, O King Eternal” for that occasion.

This hymn is really a prayer — a prayer for God’s guidance.  It speaks of marching and “fields of conquest” and “battle song” — not because it celebrates war, but because it acknowledges the daily struggle in which good people must engage against evil.  It looks forward to the celebration of victory — not with clashing swords and stirring drums, but with “deeds of love and mercy” — acknowledging that Christ calls us to conquer the world by demonstrating love and showing mercy rather than by using force.

This hymn acknowledges the difficulties of the Christian life — standing armed only with holiness against “sin’s fierce war.  It acknowledges the reality of the cross, but celebrates the reality of the crown — the reward of those who are faithful — and closes, “Lead on, O God of might!”

— Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan