Heritage Sabbath, October 20, 2001
Story of Hymn-1


The first printing of this hymn was in John Rippon's Selection of Hymns, London, 1787, under the heading "Heaven Anticipated." The original had eight four-line stanzas. The refrain was added much later.

This figure of crossing the swelling, stormy river of Jordan before death and entering the heavenly Canaan to enjoy eternal life is not strictly Biblical. It is parallel to the experience of the Israelites in Joshua's time, who came to cross the Jordan River and found the banks flooded (see Joshua 3). The Lord caused the waters to stop flowing so that the Israelites could pass over into Canaan's land. Another incident associated with the Jordan and with death and eternal life concerns the translation of the prophet Elijah. He was crossing the Jordan in the other direction, from Jericho eastward. Again a miracle occurred, for Elijah smote the waters with his mantle and he and Elisha went over on dry ground (2 Kings 2:8). In neither case was there a struggle against Jordan's waves. We owe this figure to John Bunyan's usage in Pilgrim's Progress, when all the trumpets sounded for Christian from the other side as he made a triumphant crossing of the watery barrier between him and the Delectable Country.

John Rippon (1751-1836) was born at Tiverton, Devon, England, and prepared for the ministry at Baptist College, Bristol. He was the pastor of Carter Lane Baptist Church in London for 63 years! His most significant contribution to hymnody was a collection of hymns he put together in 1787, A Selection of Hymns From the Best Authors, Intended as an Appendix to Dr. Watts's Psalms and Hymns.

Samuel Stennett, born at Exeter, England, in 1727, also was a Baptist minister. He succeeded his father as pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Little Wild Street, London, in 1758, and served there until his death. Holding a prominent position among the "dissenting" ministers of London, he was respected by the statesmen of his time for his stand on religious liberty, a tenet strongly held by Baptists, who were considered heretics by the established Church of England. He was a personal friend of King George III, and not only preached regularly on seventh-day Sabbaths, but also for the other Baptists on Sundays. His published works include sermons, pamphlets, and 38 hymns in Rippon's book. In 1763 he was honored with a D. D. degree by the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He died in London August 25, 1795.

It is undoubtedly the delightful music of "Promised Land" that has made this hymn so popular since it first appeared in William Walker's Southern Harmony, 1835, where credit is given to Miss M. Durham. Nothing about her is known. William "Singing Billy" Walker (1809-1875) was a Baptist layman and singing-school teacher of South Carolina, who wrote some 25 tunes for his successful book, of which 600,000 copies were sold in 30 years. An all-day "sing" that started in 1884, using this book, is still carried on in Benton, Kentucky, every fourth Sunday in May.

—Adapted from Wayne Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988, pp. 570, 571. Used by permission.

Click below to download a copy of this file. Choose the format you wish:

Word (.doc)
WordPerfect (.wpd)
Rich Text Format (.rtf)

Back to Heritage Sabbath contents page