There were ninety and nine that safely lay

1
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
  In the shelter of the flock,
But one was out on the hills away,
  Far off in the cold and dark;
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
2
“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.”
3
But none of the ransomed ever knew
  How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night which the Lord passed through
  Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the bleak desert He heard its cry—
All bleeding and helpless, and ready to die.
4
“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’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”
5
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!”
(Repeat the last line of each stanza)

A classic much used and much blessed under the labor of D. L. Moody

3
Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

It was in the year 1874 that the poem, "The Ninety and Nine," was discovered, set to music, and sent out upon its world-wide mission. Its discovery seemed as if by chance, but I cannot regard it otherwise than providential. Mr. Moody had just been conducting a series of meetings in Glasgow, and I had been assisting him in his work as director of the singing. We were at the railway station at Glasgow and about to take the train for Edinburgh, whther we were going upon an urgent invitation of ministers to hold 3 days of meetings there before going into the Highlands. We had held a 3 months' series in Edinburgh just previous to our 4 months campaign in Glasgow. As we were about to board the train I bought a weekly newspaper, for a penny. Being much fatigued by our incessant labors at Glasgow, and intending to begin work immediately upon our arrival at Edinburgh, we did not travel second- or third-class, as was our custom, but sought the seclusion and rest which a first-class railway carriage in Great Britain affords. In the hope of finding news from America I began perusing my lately purchased newspaper. This hope, however, was doomed to disappointment, as the only thing in its columns to remind an American of home and native land was a sermon by Henry Ward Beecher.

I threw the paper down, but shortly before arriving in Edinburgh I picked it up again with a view to reading the advertisements. While thus engaged my eyes fell upon a little piece of poetry in a corner of the paper. I carefully read it over, and at once made up my mind that this would make a great hymn for evangelistic work - if it had a tune. So impressed was I that I called Mr. Moody's attention to it, and he asked me to read it to him. This I proceeded to do with all the vim and energy at my command. After I had finished I looked at my friend Moody to see what the effect had been, only to discover that he had not heard a word, so absorbed was he in a letter which he had received from Chicago. My chagrin can better be imagined than described. Notwithstanding this experience, I cut out the poem and placed it in my musical scrap book - which, by the way, has been the seedplot from which sprang many of the Gospel songs that are now known throughout the world.

At the noon meeting on the 2nd day, held a the Free Assembly Hall, the subject presented by Mr. Moody and other speakers was "The Good Shepherd." When Mr. Moody had finished speaking he called upon Dr. Bonar to say a few words. He spoke only a few minutes, but with great power, thrilling the immense audience by his fervid eloquence. At the conclusion of Dr. Bonar's words Mr. Moody turned to me with the question, "Have you a solo appropriate for this subject, with which to close the service?" I had nothing suitable in mind, and was greatly troubled to know what to do. The 23rd Psalm occurred to me, but this had been sung several times in the meeting. I knew that every Scotsman in the audience would join me if I sang that, so I could not possibly render this favorite psalm as a solo. At this moment I seemed to hear a voice saying: "Sing the hymn you found on the train!" But I thought this impossible, as no music had ever been written for that hymn. Again the impression came strongly upon me that I must sing the beautiful and appropriate words I had found the day before, and placing the little newspaper slip on the organ in front of me, I lifted my heart in prayer, asking God to help me so to sing that the people might hear and understand. Laying my hands upon the organ I struck the key of A flat, and began to sing.

Note by note the tune was given, which has not been changed from that day to this. As the singing ceased a great sigh seemed to go up from the meeting, and I knew that the song had reached the hearts of my Scots audience. Mr. Moody was greatly moved. Leaving the pulpit, he came down to where I was seated. Leaning over the organ, he looked at the little newspaper slip from which the song had been sung, and with tears in his eyes said: "Sankey, where did you get that hymn? I never heard the like of it in my life." I was also moved to tears and arose and replied: "Mr. Moody, that's the hymn I read to you yesterday on the train, which you did not hear." Then Mr. Moody raised his hand and pronounced the benediction, and the meeting closed. Thus "The Ninety and Nine" was born. - Ira Sankey in "Sankey's Story of the Gospel Hymns" published in 1906 by the Philadelphia-based Sunday School Times Company.

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In the original, the 1st 1/2 of the 1st stanza is slightly different:

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 -


Alex Kelley

Dento, Texas, United States

This is an awesome Hymn. He found me - a lost sheep. God is so gracious.


Mike Jeshurun

Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Truly a very touching and Scriptural Hymn. It ought to move the heart of any true redeemed child of God!

Since the Lord first nursed my wounds on my way from Jerusalem to Jericho, being attacked by thieves, stripped, wounded and left for dead....I have many a time been victimized thus. To go astray comes naturally to me. But oh how many times has He come after me, found me thus, had compassion on me, bound up my wounds and poured in the oil and the wine!

Truly He is the great Shepherd of the sheep and will save them unto the end! Praise the Name of our Lord Jesus!