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Hymn History: “In the Garden”

2 min

One spring day Mr. C. Austin Miles received an assignment from his employer. After working for ten years as a pharmacist, Mr. Miles had left that profession for a new job: writing hymns and music for the Hall Mack Publishing Company. That morning Mr. Miles’ employer requested he write a song that would be “sympathetic in tone, breathing tenderness in every line; one that would bring hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, and downy pillows to dying beds.” Mr. Miles accepted the challenging assignment. What followed was so remarkable that Mr. Miles recorded what happened as God met him in fulfilling this great task:

One day in March, 1912, I was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment . . . . I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20 . . . .

As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic
moment in Mary’s life . . . . I seemed to be standing at the entrance to a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hands clasping her throat, as if to choke back sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, she bent over to look in, and hurried away.

John . . . appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb . . . . As they departed, Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni!”

I awakened in full light, gripping the Bible . . . . Under the inspiration of the vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music. 

Mr. Miles’ attentiveness to God’s voice during that moment in the Word yielded one of the world’s most beloved hymns. “In the Garden” is a favorite at retirement home services, as the words about sweet communion with Jesus cheer and inspire hope in the aged and weary. 

When you read your Bible, do you hear God’s voice and meditate on what He is telling you in His written Word? Truly treasuring Christ and His love for us requires that we give our undivided attention to what He tells us. Ask God to give you a hearing heart that you may know the reality that “He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”

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