Daniel Webster Whittle was a 19th century writer of “classic” hymns and the protege of famous Evangelist D.L. Moody. Now, I and many of my readers may disagree with his religious politics, but my bigger objection to him is that he was one of the worst song lyricists in the history of the English language…he makes William McGonagall look like William Wordsworth. This particular song, one of his two most enduring efforts along with the awkwardly-worded “I Know Whom I Have Believed”, embodies every negative stereotype about Evangelical hymns imaginable. The banal tune would be bad enough on its own, but the lyrics sound like they were written by an illiterate third-grader, with sentences constructed backwards for the sake of a rhyme and cringe-inducing lines like ‘mercy-drops round us are falling’. I certainly don’t have a bias against religious music, but that just makes this worse…in the field that gave us “Amazing Grace” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, there’s really no excuse for this. This is the kind of songwriting that thinks its religious message somehow excuses shoddy craftsmanship, which makes it rather fitting that this song would eventually be featured in an unintentionally hilarious scene in the Left Behind series (granted, one could argue all the scenes in that series are unintentionally hilarious, but this was something of a special case, at least for music lovers). You expect this kind of thing from bad Contemporary Christian Music and the like, but most of the “classic” hymns are more respectable than that, and this idiot’s body of work almost amounts to blasphemy against the God he claimed he was trying to honor.
Verdict: I don’t care if you do agree with his religious beliefs, this guy was a hack, and I can’t believe so much of his work has stuck around this long.