The Ninety and Nine
Words by Elizabeth C. Clephane. Music by Ira D. Sankey.
From Forty Gospel Hymn Stories by George W. Sanville, 1943, p. 50
"The Ninety and Nine" is a spiritual mosaic of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. Elizabeth C. Clephane has woven the scripture into a poem of rare beauty...
Miss Clephane wrote the hymn for children. It was published in The Children's Hour in 1868. She passed to her reward the following year.
Ira D. Sankey set the poem to music in 1874, so the author of the lyrics missed the knowledge of how great an immediate blessing her poem was, and its later growth to world-wide popularity and use.
From a religious paper Mr. Sankey was reading, while traveling in Scotland, he cut the poem and put it in his vest pocket. Following a powerful sermon in Edinburg(h), on the "Good Shepherd," Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist, asked Mr. Sankey to sing something suitable. Ira Sankey thought of the poem for which there had, as yet, been no music written. Drawing the poem from his pocket he placed it on the organ and struck the chord of A-flat. He followed on, composing as he went the very tune which remains unchanged to this day. The audience was greatly moved. Mr. Sankey, in telling of the occasion, says "Mr. Moody was in tears, and so was I."
John 10:14 I am the good shepherd....
Luke 15:6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold,
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd's care.
"Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine--
Are they not enough for Thee?"
But the Shepherd made answer, "This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep
I go to the desert to find My sheep."
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die.
"Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain's track?"
"They were shed for one who had gone astray,
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back."
"Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?"
"They were pierced tonight by many a thorn."
And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a cry to the gate of heaven,
"Rejoice, I have found My sheep!"
And the angels echoed around the throne,
"Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own."