The author of this hymn was Dean of Hodnet and afterward Bishop of Calcutta. He was visiting his father-in-law, the Vicar of Wrexham, they being together in the Vicar's study on the Saturday before Whitsunday, 1819. Each was preparing a missionary sermon to be delivered the following day, when the Vicar spoke up:
“Heber, write something appropriate to sing at our services to-morrow."
Immediately retiring to the other end of the room, Heber sat down by the window and composed the four stanzas which now constitute this hymn. He wanted to add a fifth, but the Vicar said: ”Nay; you will only destroy the beauty and symmetry of the composition ; let it stand."
The song was sung for the first time on that Whitsunday. Bishop Heber laid down his life, seven years later, on the mission field of India. Of the many hymns which he wrote, nearly all are in common use.