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Hymn History: “Trust and Obey”

2 min

A crowded testimony meeting was part of the revival held by Dwight L. Moody in Brockton, Massachusetts. Suddenly, a young man stood up. Earnestly he confessed, “I am not quite sure, but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey!” The simple words of faith struck the soul of songleader Pastor Daniel Towner. Quickly he jotted down the sentence. Afterward, Pastor Towner wrote a letter to his friend, Pastor John H. Sammis, giving a quick report of the young man’s testimony and the stirring words he had said.

As soon as Pastor Sammis read his friend’s letter, he realized the testimony was perfect for a hymn. First came the refrain:

Trust and obey for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Following the refrain, the verses quickly came. Pastor Sammis’s hymn expounded on trust and obedience:

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Completed, Pastor Sammis mailed the song to Pastor Towner. Pastor Towner soon composed the melody, and “Trust and Obey” became a hymn that would inspire and exhort millions of Christians through the years.

Pastor Sammis lived from 1846–1919. He was born in New York, and at age 23 moved to Indiana. He became a successful businessman and was an active Christian layman. He also sensed the call to full-time ministry. He graduated from seminary in 1881 when he was thirty-five years old, and afterward pastored churches in the Midwest. Later, Pastor Sammis served as a professor at a Bible institute until his death in 1919.

His friend, Pastor Towner, joyfully led music at many of Dwight L. Moody’s revival meetings. In 1893, Pastor Towner became the first director of the Moody Bible Institute Music Department. In his lifetime, he composed over 2,000 hymns. He was leading singing in a revival when suddenly, without warning, Pastor Towner passed from this life into eternity. Both he and his friend, Pastor Sammis, were still in ministry when God called them Home.

The hymn reminds us that obedience is the outflow of our trust in God. As we trust Him, we can more readily obey Him. Satan may tempt us to think negatively about obeying our authorities. He may whisper, “If you obey God, you’ll have to stop doing what makes you happy.” However, the truth about obedience is the joyful fruit it yields. Indeed:

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

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