The Welsh are a singing people. They sing of great events, heroes in battle, rolling hills and the seas. As far back as the 6th century, they have sung hymns. William Williams was trained for a career in medicine but he changed that to become a minister. He might have become a clergyman in the “Established Church” had he not been warned against such by “fanatical dissenters” such as John Wesley, George Whitefield and Howell Harris who preached in barns and on street corners. Such warnings were poor psychology for such an inquisitive mind as Williams had. He joined a branch of the dissenters called “Calvinistic Methodists.”
Unrestrained by the formalities of the “Established Church” the self-styled evangelist rode up and down preaching in Wales as John Wesley did in England. He preached anywhere people would listen. In forty-three years Williams traveled 95,000 miles! His passionate preaching drew large crowds of thousands. We are told that he once preached to an audience of eighty thousand after which he wrote in his journal “God strengthened me to speak loud enough that most could hear.”
He was soaked by rain, chilled by snow and beaten by mobs but only death quieted his voice and in 1791 he died at the age of seventy-four. In England people sang the hymns of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton and William Cowper but the song-loving Welsh people had comparatively few hymns from which to choose. So what Isaac Newton had been to England, William Williams became to Wales.
He wrote, we believe eight hundred hymns for his countrymen to sing. Below is the hymn generally regarded as his best. He wrote it in 1745 and it became so popular that he translated it into English twenty-seven years later.
You will recall the words: “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful Hand; Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more.”