Philip Bliss, who wrote both the text and tune for this hymn, and his 19th century contemporary, Ira Sankey, are credited with founding the gospel song movement. Both were part of the Dwight L. Moody evangelistic team, and both sang, led crusade singing, and authored many gospel songs. Bliss was inspired to write this hymn after hearing the following illustration in one of Moody’s sermons: The pilot of a ship aught in a violent storm searched frantically for the lights that would guide him to safety. He could see the powerful beam of the lighthouse, but the lower lights along the rocky shore were out, and both the ship and crew were last. “Brethren,” Moody concluded, “the Master will take care of the lighthouse, but we must keep the lower lights burning.”
The link below will open a new window and features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with an especially lovely setting of this song.