“He saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” Genesis 28:11-12



Sarah Fuller Flower Adams (1805-1848) Words: Verses 1-5, Sarah Fuller Flower Adams, in Hymns and Anthems, by William Johnson Fox, 1841; verse 6, Edward Henry Bickersteth, Jr.

Music: “Bethany (Mason),” Lowell Mason, 1856

One night, sometime after lying awake in the dark, eyes wide open, through the stillness in the house the melody came to me, and the next morning I wrote down the notes.

Alternate tunes:

  • “Horbury,” John Bacchus Dykes, 1861
  • “Propior Deo” (Arthur Seymour Sullivan), 1872 (uses a modified refrain)

“Nearer, My God, to Thee” is sung at the end of the 1936 movie San Francisco, which was nominated for several Academy Awards. It is also played by the ship’s band in Titanic, winner of the Academy Award for best picture of 1997.

There are also many inspiring true life stories associated with this hymn. Some Titanic survivors said it was played by the ship’s orchestra as the ocean liner went down (though other survivors said it was a different song).

Another story concerns the death of American president William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901. Dr. Mann, the attending physician, reported that among McKinley’s last words were “‘Nearer, my God, to Thee, e‘en though it be a cross,’ has been my constant prayer.” On the afternoon of September 3, 1901, after five minutes of silence across the nation, bands in Union and Madison Squares in New York City played the hymn in memory of the fallen president. It was also played at a memorial service for him in Westminster Abbey, London.

Lowell Mason (1792-1872)
1890 Edition


Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.


Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone.
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God to Thee.


There let the way appear, steps unto heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me, in mercy given;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee.


Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee.


Or, if on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I’ll fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.


There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.


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