Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876), one of the great hymn writers, traveled with evangelist D. L. Moody as his song leader. In Chicago, Bliss was listening to Moody preach in an evangelistic campaign about a violent storm on Lake Erie:
On a dark, stormy evening, when the waves rolled like mountains & not a star was to be seen, a ship, rocking & plunging, neared the Cleveland harbor.
“Are you sure this is Cleveland?” asked the Captain, seeing only light from the lighthouse.
“Quite sure,” replied the pilot.
“Where are the lower lights?”
“Gone out, sir!”
“Can you make it to the harbor?”
“We must, or perish, sir.”
With a strong hand a brave heart, the old pilot turned the wheel, But in the darkness, he missed the channel & without the lower lights his ship crashed on the rocks & many on board died in the tragedy.
“Brethren,” concluded Moody, “the Master will take care of the great lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning.”
Bliss went home wrote the following hymn & sang it at Moody’s next service:
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
You may rescue, you may save.