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The Touching True Story Behind “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”

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A classic hymn, especially beloved among the African American Christian community, has made its way into the new Latter-day Saint hymnal. Here’s the touching true story behind “His Eyes Is on the Sparrow.”

Civilla D. Martin

The hymn was written by Civilla D. Martin, a Canadian-American writer known for writing religious texts with her husband, a minister. In his book, “A Foot in Two Worlds: A Pastor’s Journey from Grief to Hope,” Vincent D. Homan shared Martin’s own words about writing the hymn:

Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for night twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eyes Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience. 

Martin sent the hymn via mail to Charles H. Gabriel, a known composer and lyricist she had worked with before. . Latter-day Saints would know Gabriel’s hymn, “I Stand All Amazed.”

The lyrics as found in the new hymnal are below. You can listen to it here. What do you think of this hymn? 

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart be lonely

And long for heav’n and home,

When Jesus is my portion?

My constant Friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy—

I sing because I’m free—

For His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled.”

His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness,

I lose my doubt and fear.

Though by the path He leadeth,

But one step I may see:

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy—

I sing because I’m free—

For His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted,

Whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing,

When hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him;

From care He sets me free:

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy—

I sing because I’m free—

For His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me. 

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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