Born in Glasgow, Scotland, March 27, 1842, George Matheson had only partial vision as a boy. After he entered Glasgow University, his sight failed rapidly and he became totally blind at the age of eighteen. Despite this handicap he was a brilliant scholar and finished the University and the Seminary of the Church of Scotland with high honors. In 1886 he became pastor of the 2,000 member St. Bernard's Parish Church in Edinburgh. He went on to become known as one of Scotland's outstanding preachers and pastors, greatly esteemed in Edinburgh, where his eloquent preaching consistently attracted large crowds.
Many conjectures have been made regarding the cause of the mental distress which promped the author to write this text. A very popular account, although never substantiated, is that this text was an outgrowth of Matheson's fiancee's leaving him just before their married when she learned of his impending total blindness. Although this story cannot be documented, there are many significant hints in this hymn reflecting a saddened heart, such as the "flickering torch" and the "borrowed ray." in the second stanza, the tracing of the "rainbow through the rain" in the third stanza, as well as the "cross" in the last verse.
Innellan Manse, Matheson's birthplace, is were he wrote this becautiful hymn. Fornunately, D. Matheson did leave an account of his writing of this hymn:
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