This hymn of testimony was written in 1891 by Daniel Webster Whittle. He was born in 1840 in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, and was named for the American statesman Daniel Webster, whom his father greatly admired. In 1861 Daniel enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War and rose to the rank of Major, to be known as Major Whittle for the rest of his life.
After the war, he became treasurer of the Elgin Watch Company in Elgin, Illinois. In 1873 he resigned after having been encouraged by D. L. Moody to enter the field of evangelism. Major Whittle was quite successful as an evangelist, as well as the author of a number of hymns written under the pseudonym of “El Nathan.”
The profound truth expressed in this hymn is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). The key phrase, “Christ liveth in me,” is repeated throughout the song. The refrain concludes with the exclamation, “O what a salvation this, That Christ liveth in me!”
Major Whittle’s song leader at that time, James McGranahan, skillfully composed the music for the hymn. The rich harmonies and flowing melody make it an effective song for choir or quartet, as well as congregation. In Philippians 4:8 Paul lists things that we are to think on: things that are honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Certainly the “wondrous thought that Christ liveth in me!” is one of those things!
As in the cone the tree,
So, praise the God of truth and grace,
His Spirit dwelleth in me.
Christ liveth in me,
Christ liveth in me,
O what a salvation this,
That Christ liveth in me!
Once far from God and dead in sin,
No light my heart could see;
But in God’s Word the light I found,
Now Christ liveth in me.
As rays of light from yonder sun
The flow’rs of earth set free,
So life and light and love came forth
From Christ living in me.
With longing all my heart is filled,
That like him I may be,
As on the wond’rous thought I dwell,
That Christ liveth in me.