Hymn Story

Near to the Heart of God

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Near to the Heart of God

Dr. Cleland McAfee (1866-1944), a Presbyterian minister, served for many years on the faculty of Park College, a church-related school.  He also served as the pastor of churches.

When tragedy struck the family, it was natural that they would turn to Dr. McAfee for consolation.  The tragedy, in this case, was doubled.  In 1903, two of his brother’s infant daughters succumbed to diphtheria—dying within 24 hours of each other.

The double tragedy broke Dr. McAfee’s heart, of course.  The situation was made even more difficult by the fact that his brother’s house had to be quarantined to prevent the spread of diphtheria.  People were unable to go inside to express their condolences—and the family could not be permitted to leave the house to attend funeral services.  How could it have been worse?

Dr. McAfee prayed for God to give him the right words to help his brother and his brother’s wife.  Then he felt inspired to write this hymn.

There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God;
a place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
hold us who wait before thee
near to the heart of God.

He taught the song to his choir, and they stood outside his brother’s house to sing it.  The choir also sang it during the regular worship hour on the following Sunday.

It has been more than a century since Dr. McAfee penned the words of this song, but people today find it as comforting as did the people of that earlier day.  We, too, need a place of rest (v. 1)—a place of comfort (v. 2)—a place where all is joy and peace (v. 3).

And in times of trouble, we have discovered that God honors our faith by providing the comfort and peace what our hearts require.
Copyright, 2015, Richard Niell Donovan