John H. Sammis

John H. Sammis

Born: Ju­ly 6, 1846, Brook­lyn, NY.
Died: June 12, 1919, Los An­ge­les, CA.
Buried: For­est Lawn Me­mo­ri­al Park, Glen­dale, CA.

Hymns by John Sammis

There are countless stories of faithful men and women who have used their talents to glorify God and inspire believers. One such individual is John H. Sammis, a businessman turned Presbyterian minister, who penned the timeless hymn “Trust and Obey” along with over 100 other hymns. His life and work serve as a testament to the power of dedicating one’s abilities to the Lord.

Early Life and Business Career

John H. Sammis was born in 1846 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up to become a successful businessman, settling in Logansport, Indiana, around 1869. It was during this time that Sammis became involved with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), serving as a secretary for the organization. This experience would prove to be a turning point in his life, as it sparked his desire to enter the ministry.

Theological Education and Ordination

Feeling called to serve God in a greater capacity, Sammis made the decision to pursue theological education. He attended McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1880, Sammis was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, marking the beginning of his lifelong commitment to sharing the Gospel.

Pastoral Ministry Across the Midwest

Upon his ordination, Sammis embarked on a journey of pastoral ministry that would take him across the Midwest. He served congregations in Glidden, Iowa; Indianapolis, Indiana; Grandhaven, Michigan; Red Wing, Minnesota; and Sullivan, Indiana. Throughout his years of ministry, Sammis remained dedicated to teaching the Word of God and encouraging believers in their faith.

The Birth of “Trust and Obey”

In 1887, Sammis collaborated with composer Daniel B. Towner to create the beloved hymn “Trust and Obey.” The inspiration for the hymn came from a testimony given during one of Dwight L. Moody’s revival meetings in Brockton, Massachusetts. A young man stood up and declared, “I am not quite sure—but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.” These simple yet profound words struck a chord with Towner, who jotted them down and sent them to Sammis.

Upon receiving Towner’s letter, Sammis penned the now-famous refrain:

Trust and obey—for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

The stanzas that followed were crafted around this central theme, and the hymn quickly gained popularity, appearing in the 1887 collection Hymns Old and New. Since then, “Trust and Obey” has been included in countless hymnals and has touched the lives of believers around the world.

Teaching at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles

In 1901, Sammis moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). He would spend the remainder of his career teaching at this institution, imparting his knowledge and passion for the Scriptures to countless students. During his time at BIOLA, Sammis also served as the editor of the institute’s magazine, The King’s Business.

A Prolific Writer and Editor

Throughout his years at BIOLA, Sammis proved to be a prolific writer and editor. He contributed numerous editorials, Bible studies, position papers, poems, and reports to The King’s Business, often signing them with his initials “JHS” or simply “Sammis.” His writing covered a wide range of topics, from Christian service and Bible study to the dangers of liberalism and the importance of trusting and obeying God.

Sammis’ editorials and articles provide a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a Christian leader during the early 20th century, as the fundamentalist movement was taking shape. His words, though sometimes sharp and uncompromising, were always rooted in a deep love for God and a desire to see believers grow in their faith.

A Legacy of Faith and Obedience

John H. Sammis passed away on June 12, 1919, in Highland Park, Los Angeles, and was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Though he may not be as well-known as some of his contemporaries, Sammis’ legacy lives on through the enduring impact of “Trust and Obey.”

Sammis’ life serves as a reminder that God can use our talents and abilities, no matter our background or profession, to make a difference in the lives of others. By dedicating his life to ministry Sammis left an indelible mark on the world, encouraging generations of believers to trust and obey the Lord in all circumstances.

As we reflect on the life and work of John H. Sammis, let us be inspired to use our own gifts and talents to glorify God and edify His church. May we, like Sammis, remain steadfast in our faith, trusting and obeying the Lord as we navigate the challenges and joys of life. For, as the hymn so beautifully reminds us, there truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.

John Stammis with Child
Don Chapman

Don Chapman

Composer/arranger Don Chapman has created HYMNDEX as a labor of love to help new generations learn about the lives, legacies and lyrics of historic hymn writers.