SOFTLY AND TENDERLY JESUS IS CALLING                       written in 1880

The Story

Will Thompson (1847-1909) was called “the Bard of Ohio”. Leaving his home in East Liverpool, Ohio, he went to New York City to sell some of the secular songs he had written. Music people picked them up, and soon people across the country were singing “My Home on the Old Ohio” and “Gathering Shells from the Seashore”. He made so much money from his compositions that newspapers called him “the millionaire songwriter”.

But Will was a Christian, and he soon turned his focus more to hymnwriting. After he set up his own firm for publishing hymnals, he sold 2 million copies of his gospel-quartet books. Sometime around 1880, when Will was 37-years-old, he wrote this invitation hymn, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”.

Recognizing that many people in the rural parts of the United States would never hear evangelists like Moody or song-leaders like Sankey in person, “the millionaire songwriter” loaded an upright piano on a 2-horse wagon and drove into the Ohio countryside to sing his gospel songs in the smaller villages and towns of his state.

Will was a member of the Churches of Christ, where several of his hymns and gospel songs continue in use. “Softly and Tenderly” is the most widely known of his compositions, and has far-outlasted its origins in the American Restoration Movement. It is among the most widely translated gospel songs, and has spread appealingly into the repertoire of various congregations.

Allegedly, when evangelist Dwight L. Moody was in the hospital – barred from seeing visitors, Thompson had arrived; Moody insisted that Thompson be let in, whereupon Moody told him: “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”

“Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home”.  The invitation still stands…

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – listen for the soft and tender call of Jesus.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me;
see, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home;
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies, mercies for you and for me?


Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, passing from you and from me;
shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, coming for you and for me.  (Refrain)

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised, promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me.  (Refrain)


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