The composer and author of the hymn, Helen Lemmel, was the daughter of a Methodist pastor. From a gospel tract called Focused by Lilias Trotter, a missionary to the Muslims of Algeria, Ms. Lemmel heard the words, “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”Lilias Trotter!? I love anything to do with her; I contemplated once writing a dual-biography thing on her and Amelia Edwards, the Egyptologist. They're a fascinating contrast. Both were intrepid Victorian women explorers who spent most of their lives in north Africa, founding organizations and writing and doing various exciting things. Lilias was a gifted artist in England, and everyone assured her she'd be throwing her life away by going for missions in Algeria.
She learned Arabic from French textbooks because there weren't any available in English, and she developed close relationships with the people there. She wrote and illustrated Arabic pamphlets which were apparently so well done, they were still in print at least through the 1960's, and maybe still are.
I particularly enjoyed her book Between the Desert and the Sea, which I ILL'ed several years ago. She just loved North Africa. It was a sort of illustrated journal, as I recall. I would have bought it, because it's well worth having, but it was last printed in about 1925 and Amazon is currently listing it for between $181 and $312. Sigh.
The saddest thing about Amelia Edwards was how she ended. When she got old (and ornery), her own Egyptian Exploration Society kicked her out, and her life sort of fizzled. But Lilias' people took good care of her, and even when she couldn't leave her bed, she had a very solid ministry encouraging and praying. God takes care of His people.
I had no idea that Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus was inspired by Lilias' little booklet linked above. Her text is well worth reading, and reminds me strongly of C.S. Lewis; and I like the song much more now.