Now all the woods are sleeping,
And night and stillness creeping
O’er city, man, and beast;
But thou, my heart, awake thee,
To prayer awhile betake thee,
And praise thy Maker ere thou rest.
My Jesus, stay Thou by me,
And let no foe come nigh me,
Safe sheltered by Thy wing;
But would the foe alarm me,
O let him never harm me,
But still Thine angels round me sing!
My loved ones, rest securely,
From every peril surely
Our God will guard your heads;
And happy slumbers send you,
And bid His hosts attend you,
And golden armed watched o’er your beds.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalms 4:8
Different writers corroborate the following touching story connected with one of Gerhardt's hymns:
"What a dreadful day was the 14th of September, 1796, for the small Hessian town of Lisberg, built on the wooded heights of the Vosrelberg. Between nine and ten o'clock at night, five hundred fugitives of the French army, which had just been defeated by the Archduke Charles, fled through the city, breathing vengeance; and after they had destroyed, murdered, and plundered for many hours, they set fire to the town at all points, so that fifty-eight dwellings were burned to the ground.
"On the slope of the hill stood a cottage, where a mother sat at the bed of her sick child. From fear of endangering the life of her darling, she would not, in the cold September day, flee with it to the woods, as most of the inhabitants had done. But now, when the firing and murdering began in the place, and the smoke of the burning houses came down from the hill into the valley, then the poor lone woman was fearful unto death; she bolted the door of the cottage, and threw herself on her knees in prayer beside the cradle of her child. Thus she remained a long time, trembling as she listened to the shouts of the soldiers and the shrieks of the victims; at last her door was struck by the butt-end of a musket; and it quickly flew open, and a Frenchman rushed in, pointing his bayonet at the horrified woman. The mother laid her hands over her child, and with a voice of despair she prayed aloud the verse of Gerhardt's hymn:
'My Jesus, stay thou by me,
And let no foe come nigh me,
Safe sheltered by thy wing;
But should the foe alarm me,
Oh! let him never harm me,
But still thine angels round me sing.'
Suddenly the soldier lowered his deadly weapon, stepped to the cradle, and laid his rough hand softly on the child's head, his lips moved as if in prayer, and tear-drops fell over his bearded face. Then he gave his hand to the mother and went away in silence. After some time, she arose from her knees, and looked out of the little window, and behold! there stood the Frenchman, his musket on his arm. He had made himself the sentinel to protect the house and its inmates from all insult or harm. At last, when the whole troop, laden with booty, marched off, he left his post, with a greater treasure in his heart than his comrades had in their sacks."
from Illustrated History of Hymns and Their Authors, By Rev. Edwin M. Long