The Story Behind Eternal Father, Strong to Save
The original hymn was penned in 1860 by William Whiting, an Anglican churchman from Winchester, United Kingdom. Whiting grew up near the shores of England, and at the age of thirty-five had felt his life saved by God when a fierce storm nearly destroyed the ship he was traveling on, instilling a faith in God's control over the rage and calm of the sea. As headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers' School some years later, he was approached by a student about to travel to the United States, who expressed to Whiting a tremendous fear of the ocean voyage. Whiting shared his experiences of the ocean and wrote the hymn to "anchor his faith". Whiting is commonly believed to have been inspired by Psalm 107, which describes the power and danger of the seas in great detail:
"Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away."
Psalm 107: 23–26
This hymn was popularised by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy in the late 19th century, and alterations of it were soon adopted by many branches of the armed services in the United Kingdom and the United States. Services who have adopted the hymn include the Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, the British Army, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Marine Corps, as well as many navies of the British Commonwealth. Correspondingly, it is known by many titles, periodically referred to as the Hymn of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the Royal Navy Hymn, the United States Navy Hymn (or just The Navy Hymn), and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on the Sea".
In December 2018, the hymn was played at memorial and funeral services for President George H. W. Bush.
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Popular Hymn Lyrics with Story and Meaning
Day by Day and With Each Passing Moment
Jesus Loves Me
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Nearer My God to Thee
Abide with Me
His Eye is On the Sparrow
Be Thou My Vision
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty