Lead us Heavenly Father Lead Us (James Edmeston 1791-1867)

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat, Patsy Knight, Picture: NIGEL MILLARD

Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us,
O’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us feed us,
For we have no help but thee;
Yet possessing every blessing
If our God our father be.

James Edmeston was born in Wapping that would become part of East London docklands. Edmeston, a trained surveyor and architect, would have known about life at sea.

We share his spiritual journey, his ‘tempestuous sea’, his picture of difficulties in life.

We share his dependency on a ‘Heavenly Father’ who leads, guards, guides, keeps and feeds us through stormy seas. He provides so that we can ‘possess every blessing’.

Saviour, breathe forgiveness o’er us,
All our weakness thou dost know.
Thou didst tread this earth before us,
Thou didst feel its keenest woe.
Lone and dreary, faint and weary,
Through the desert thou didst go.

In 19th century London, visiting orphans in an asylum, seeing abject poverty, Edmeston would have seen life’s ‘keenest woes’.

We move from Father to Jesus, the man who walked the earth. Jesus, who is truly human, knows and understands our sadnesses, weaknesses and failings.

We move from sea to desert, the place of temptation, aloneness, weariness, dryness and thirst.

Jesus brings forgiveness because he has known temptation.  Receiving his forgiveness we can forgive others and forgive ourselves.

Spirit of our God, descending,
Fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
Love with every passion blending
Pleasure that can never cloy.
Thus provided, pardoned, guided,
Nothing can our peace destroy.

Edmeston was both profoundly spiritual and profoundly practical…

The Spirit that descended on Jesus comes to us. As Jesus shared our life we can share his life.

Father, Son and Spirit bring provision, pardon and guidance.

The Spirit of God remains with us, bringing full hearts that contain his love, joy and indestructible peace…


‘Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us’ by James Edmeston (1791-1867) was first published in 1821 – nearly 200 years ago. He kept a library and published poetry. He wrote over 2000 hymns, a new one each Sunday. This one alone remains.


‘Cloy’ is a lovely word… Our world that seeks pleasure. That which starts enjoyable and pleasurable becomes too sweet and distasteful, a burden or an addiction. It cloys.

Edmeston says that God’s Spirit brings pleasures that ‘never cloy’!

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