Hymn History: “I Know Whom I Have Believed”

2 min

The Battle of Vicksburg, one of the bloodiest conflicts recorded in American history, was over. Among the many badly wounded soldiers was Union officer Major Daniel Webster Whittle. After losing his right arm in the battle, Major Whittle spent months as a prisoner of war (POW) recuperating in a hospital. The young soldier became weary of having nothing to do while recovering. Finally, looking for something to do to pass the time, Major Whittle began reading the New Testament his
mother had given him when he joined the Army.

As Major Whittle read the little Bible, the Holy Spirit convicted him of his sin and his need for a Savior. However, he resisted surrendering to Christ, and soon he fell asleep. A short time afterward, a hospital orderly awakened him. The orderly explained that another POW was dying and wanted someone to come pray with him. Major Whittle protested that he could not pray with the dying patient and suggested that the orderly ask someone else. “But I thought you were a Christian; I have seen you reading your Bible,” the orderly replied. 

Major Whittle later wrote:

I dropped on my knees and held the [dying] boy’s hand in mine. In a few broken words, I confessed my sins and asked Christ to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me. I then prayed and pleaded God’s promises. When I arose from my knees, . . . he [the soldier] was dead. A look of peace had come over his troubled face, and I cannot but believe that God who used him to bring me to the Savior used me to lead him to trust Christ’s precious blood and find pardon.

Faith is “visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it.” To have strong and vibrant faith in any situation, we must know Whom we are trusting! Major Whittle wrote the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” as an expression of his faith in Christ. He noted in the hymn that while there was still much he did not understand, he chose to believe in God and His faithfulness. Faith involves not only believing with our minds but also trusting in our hearts that God lives within us when we commit our lives to Him. Apart from faith, we cannot act in harmony with God’s good and perfect will.

Major Whittle wrote other hymns. After the war, influenced by D. L. Moody’s ministry, Major Whittle became an evangelist and led many to Christ. God can also be glorified through our faith as we discern and act in harmony with His will.

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