John H. Yates, a humble layman who lived at Batavia, New York, wrote this hymn after reading the following incident in a newspaper: ”We were nearing a dangerous coast, and the night was drawing near. Suddenly a heavy fog settled down upon us. No lights had been sighted, and the pilot seemed anxious and troubled, not knowing how soon we might be dashed to pieces on the hidden rocks along the shore. The whistle was blown loud and hard, but no response was heard. The captain ordered the engines to be stopped, and for some time we drifted about on the waves. Suddenly the pilot cried, ' Hark!' Far away in the distance we heard the welcome tones of the harbor bell, which seemed to say, ' This way, this way!' Again the engines were started, and, guided by the welcome sound, we entered the harbor in safety."
On receiving this hymn from Mr. Yates, in 1891, I at once set it to music. It has been found useful in meetings for sailors and fishermen.