Monday, January 2, 2017

When the roll is called up yonder....

James Black (1856-1938, shown below) taught Sunday school at a church in Williamsport, PA, where he was also president of the Young People's Society. One day he met a 14-year-old girl. Her father was an alcoholic and she was dressed very poorly. She accepted his invitation to attend Sunday school and join the society.

One evening at a consecration meeting, when members answered the roll call by repeating a Bible verse, she failed to respond. Black spoke to the group about how sad it would be, when our names are called from heaven, if one of us should be absent. He longed for a suitable hymn to sing just then, but found nothing in the hymnal, so the meeting was adjourned.

On his way home, he kept wishing for a song that might express his spiritual  concern. The idea came, "why don't you write it?" He dismissed the idea, convinced he could never write such a hymn.

He arrived home and his wife noticed how troubled he was, but he said nothing.

 "Then the words of the first stanza came to me in full." he remembered. "In 15 minutes I had composed the other two verses. Going to the piano, I played the music just as it is found today in hymn books, note for note. I have never dared to change a single word or note of the piece since."  To hear this beautiful hymn visit

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