By Charles William Fry (1837–1882)
I’ve found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;
He tells me every care on Him to roll.
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
In temptation He’s my strong and mighty tow’r;
I’ve all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
From my heart and now He keeps me by His pow’r.
Though all the world forsake me, and Satan tempt me sore,
Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal.
He’ll never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
While I live by faith and do His blessed will;
A wall of fire about me, I’ve nothing now to fear,
From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.
Then sweeping up to glory to see His blessed face,
Where rivers of delight shall ever roll.
This hymn was a favorite of mine and often reminds me of my auntie called Lilly. When I was growing up I never quite understood what was special about this hymn. But a few years ago, as I studied the names of Jesus; this hymn became very special to me as full understanding of it dawned upon me. Jesus has a name for every need. Being the lilly of the valley has its own rightful place.
The lyrics of this lovely old hymn called The Lily Of The Valley” or “I’ve Found A Friend In Jesus” as it is sometimes referred to, were written in 1881 by Charles William Fry (1837–1882), with music by William Shakespeare Hays. It was originally written for the Salvation Army. The words were arranged by Ira D. Sankey to the music of “The Little Old Log Cabin in The Lane” a popular circular tune of the day. The lyrics originated in England.
A bit of biographical information on the lyricist and composer:
Charles William Fry was born on May 30, 1838 in Alderbury, Wiltshire, England. His birth name was William Charles Fry. He died on August 24, 1882 at Park Hall, Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland. Charles William Fry was a bricklayer by trade taking after his father. Fry however, was also a versatile musician who was able to play the violin, cello, piano, cornet, and harmonium, and leading an orchestra and band at the Wesleyan chapel in Alderbury. He also helped the Christian Mission in Salisbury, and his family band accompanied Salvation Army founder William Booth in evangelism campaigns. When the Salvation Army begun its work in Salisbury in 1878, Charles William Fry was then a successful building. Fry and his three sons soon offered their instrumental musical talents and played for the Salvation Army outdoor meetings and became part of the first Salvation Army brass band. Fry is also remembered as the author of the hymn ‘Lily of the Valley’ (a.k.a. ‘I Have Found a Friend in Jesus’).”
The music to the hymn were written by William Shakespeare Hays who was born on July 19, 1837, in Louisville, Kentucky. After attending college in Indiana, Tennessee, and his native Kentucky, he became a reporter for the Louisville Democrat, a vocation to which he would return later in life as a columnist for Louisville Courier-Journal after a stint as a steamboat captain on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. His facility with the written word eventually led Hays into the field of songwriting. Little Ones at Home was published in 1856, the first of some 350 songs he composed during his lifetime. Mollie Darling, written in 1872, sold a phenomenal million copies. During the War Between the States, Hays was jailed in New Orleans for writing songs that supported the Confederate cause. Hays died on July 23, 1907, in his hometown of Louisville (Poetry and Music of the War Between the States http://users.erols.com/kfraser/authors/hays.html).
A few comments about the hymn:
One interesting point to note about this hymn is that the music of the hymn had its origins in a secular tune, in this case a popular vaudeville song, “Little Old Log Cabin.” “The southern gospel hymn, ‘Lily of the Valley,’ with words by Charles W. Fry (1881) was adapted from Hays’ ‘Little Old Log Cabin.’ The words “Fairest of 10,000 to my Soul” One wonders why the hymn writer choose 10,000 and not 50,000,000 or several billions, or however many there were on earth at that time. In my meditations on this song, I noted that “fairest of ten thousand,” is actually a Biblical reference from the Song of Solomon, 5:10: “My beloved is white and ruddy, the fairest among ten thousand.” Other translations say “chiefest among ten thousand,” “outstanding among ten thousand,” and “chosen one among ten thousand.” The reference to Christ as “the lily of the valley” also comes from the Song of Solomon.
Song of Solomon is a book that few preachers, that I have heard, want to discuss because of its explicit love language. It would be easy to dismiss this book and move on but then we would be missing the beautiful picture of The Bridegroom– Jesus– and HIs bride–the Church –which is all of us who are born again.
Here is what the Scofield Bible has to say about this book of song of Solomon or Song of Songs. “No where in Scripture do the unspiritual mind tread upon ground so mysterious and incomprehensible as in this book. While the saintliest of men and women of the ages have found it a source of pure exquisite delight. That the love of the divine Bridgroom should follow all the analogies of the marriage relation seems evil only to the minds so ascetic that marital desires seems to them unholy.
The interpretation is twofold: primarily the book is the expression of true marital love as ordained of God in creation. The secondary and larger interpretation is of Christ, the Son, and HIs Heavenly Bride, the church.
Thoughts about the Lilly:
I took time to study the Lily of the Valley and here are some interesting facts I found about the Lily of the Valley which grows abundantly in certain places.
The lily of the valley represents sweetness and the return of happiness. It can also symbolize humility. Because of the belief in the healing powers of this plant, it is often known as the “ladder to heaven” or “Jacob’s tears.” Also, it is considered a sign of Christ’s second coming.
The lily of the valley is mentioned in the Song of Solomon in the Bible, too. Legend tells that Mary’s tears turned to the lily of the valley when she cried at the cross. This is the reason for the third alternate name, “Mary’s tears.”
Observed under a microscope the Lily of the Valley reveals some true beauty that is not always apparent to the naked eye.
First of all the Lily of the Valley is white. A symbol of purity and holiness.
Secondly it has seven grains or seeds the color of gold. Jesus spoke of the Lily of the Valley in Matthew 6:28 and said that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.”
The Lily of the Valley has strong and beautiful fragrance. It is a fruitful flower as it produces berries and it grows prolifically from one root. Just as Jesus is the root from which all spiritual blessings grow. Rev. 22:16. And when we are rooted and grounded in Him and His Word we will bear fruit.
The lily has some interesting and diverse uses. I found these medicinal properties that it has been used for in centuries past. When placed in distilled water it is good for the liver and the heart. It actually resembles digitalis as a cardiac tonic. After WWI It was found to be useful in cases of poisonous gassing of the men at the front. It is also useful for urinary canal obstructions. The water is said to strengthen memory and the ointment is a healing salve for burns and scalds. It can be useful for gout and sprains. It has been known to restore lost speech and help inflamed eyes. I am not sure but perhaps it is the ingredients for some medications and herbal treatments even today. I just wanted to note here the usefulness of this humble flower of the field:)
Lilly In The Bible
The Bible mentions lilies 15 times in 15 different verses. Of these 15 mentions, 8 of them occur in the Song of Solomon. Perhaps the most memorable verses are the following:
- Song of Solomon 2:1I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
See All… I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
- Song of Solomon 2:2As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
See All… As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
- Song of Solomon 6:2My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
See All… My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
- Hosea 14:5I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
See All… I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
- Matthew 6:28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
See All… And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Here in these verses, we see several things about the lilies of the Bible. They grow in the valleys and in the field. They may even grow among thorns. Sometimes, they are cultivated to grow in planted gardens. In speaking of God’s blessing on Israel, Hosea states that “he shall grow as the lily.” This indicates that the lily grows rapidly and commonly in many places.
The many places the lily is found in the Bible (valleys, fields, gardens, among thorns) shows the lily to be a common representation of a wide variety of flowers. This is similar to the usage of lily in English. The dictionary says that the lily is a large genus of perennial plants of the lily family grown from a bulb and having typically trumpet-shaped flowers, some white and some colored. Several plants that are similar to the true lily are also called lilies. In like manner, the biblical lily would refer to a large range of flowering plants that normally grew in the wild fields and covered the valleys at certain times of the year.
Most Bible scholars agree that the “lily of the valleys” in Song of Solomon 2:1I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. See All… is a type of Jesus Christ. Benjamin Keach, in his books on types, gives five comparisons between the lily of the valley and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are his points summarized:
- A lily is a sweet and a flagrant flower with a strong scent. Jesus has a sweetness in His ministry especially when He gave “himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.
- A lily is white and very beautiful; exceeding all other flowers for whiteness. Within it are seven grains or seeds that are the color of gold. White is a picture of purity (Revelation 3:4Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
See All…). The bride of the Lamb will be clothed in white (Revelation 19:8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
See All…). What better representation of the purity of Jesus Christ, the one “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
See All…), who “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
See All…), who was tempted “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
See All…), and who “in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
See All…), than a beautiful white lily? “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
- A lily is very fruitful. One root may put forth fifty bulbs. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He brings forth much fruit (John 12:24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
See All…). It is by bearing much fruit that He glorified the Father (John 15:8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
- A lily, according to the ancient writer Pliny, is the tallest of flowers and yet hangs its head down. This a beautiful picture of the greatness of the Son of God matched only by the greatness of His humility. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8  Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!  Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?  Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
- The lily has many medicinal qualities. According to ancient teaching, it could be used to restore a lost voice, help faintness, was good for the liver, and helped dropsy. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great physician and is fully capable of curing all diseases and maladies of the soul.
Certainly, the lily of the valleys is a beautiful picture and type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sources: Because of the factual nature of this article, I will have some wording that is very close to that in my sources. Here, I freely give those sources:
- “Preaching from the Types and Metaphors of the Bible” by Benjamin Keach
- “Webster’s New World Dictionary”