HIGHER GROUND written in 1898
From our perspective today, Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922) seems to have been going through a midlife crisis. He felt he was locked into his father’s mercantile business in Medford, New Jersey. It was a good business, and he wasn’t unhappy in it… but he was growing restless.
Johnson actually wanted to do something that could reach out and touch more people for the Lord. So, he became an ordained Methodist minister and preached in churches in central New Jersey. But, his commitment to his father’s business kept him from becoming pastor of a church. He was still discontented.
When he was 36 years old, Johnson apparently found that to which he was called. He began writing gospel songs. And, within a few years, the whole world seemed to be singing his songs! He wrote “Count Your Blessings”, “No Not One”, and this hymn, “Higher Ground”. In camp meetings across the country, “Higher Ground” became a favorite hymn. It expresses the desire of most Christians, and it certainly expresses the desire of a restless Johnson Oatman, who was pressing on the upward way.
Read this hymn, and – today – step onto spiritual ground a little higher than the ground you stood on yesterday.
I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day;
still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
a higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay;
though some may dwell where those abound, my prayer, my aim, is higher ground.(Refrain)
I want to live above the world, though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground. (Refrain)
I want to scale the utmost height and catch a gleam of glory bright;
but still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” (Refrain)