[Biblemat] hymn study, "We Shall Sleep, But Not Forever"
Wayne S Walker
wswalker310 at juno.com
Fri Sep 9 16:53:45 CDT 2005
Wayne Walker here with another weekly hymn study.
"WE SHALL SLEEP, BUT NOT FOREVER"
"Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead, but asleep"
INTRO.: A song which likens death to a sleep from which we shall
awaken is "We Shall Sleep, But Not Forever." The text was written by
Mary Ann Pepper Kidder (1820-1905). It was first published in the 1878
Sacred Songs and Solos by Ira David Sankey. Some of Kidder's other hymns
that have appeared in our books include "Did You Think To Pray?", "Fear
Not, Little Flock," "Is My Name Written There?", and "The Christian's
The tune most often used is attributed to S. George Shipley. This
same text can be seen in the 1902 Church and Sunday School Hymnal edited
by J. D. Brunk and published by the Mennonite Publishing House of
Scottsdale, PA, and the 1972 The Christian Hymnary edited by John J.
Overholt and published by the Christian Hymnary Publishers of Sarasota,
FL (also Mennonite) with a tune by Silas Jones Vail (1818-1884). It can
also be seen in the 1983 Old School Hymnal, 11th Edition, edited by
Roland U. Green and published by the Old School Hymnal Publishing Co. of
Ellenwood, GA (Baptist), with a tune identified as arranged by Green.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord's church for use in
churches of Christ during the twentieth century, this song was found in
the 1935 Christian Hymns No. 1 with the tune arranged by the editor,
Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). It was also used in the 1964 Songs for
the Shadows edited by M. Lynwood Smith.
The song pictures heaven as a place where the righteous dead, having
been raised to live again, will never die.
I. Stanza 1 focuses upon the hope of the resurrection
"We shall sleep, but not forever, There will be a glorious dawn! We
shall meet to part, no, never, On the resurrection morn!
>From the deepest caves of ocean, From the desert and the plain, From the
valley and the mountains, Countless throngs shall rise again."
A. Death, represented by sleep--of the body, not the soul--is an
appointment that all must keep unless the Lord comes first: 1 Cor. 15.51,
B. However, there will be a glorious dawn when we shall meet on the
resurrection morn: 1 Thess. 4.13-17
C. From every possible place, countless throngs of those in the tombs
shall come forth: Jn. 5.28-29
II. Stanza 2 focuses upon the sorrow of death
"When we see a precious blossom, That we tended with such care, Rudely
taken from our bosom, How our aching hearts despair!
Round its little grave we linger, Till the setting sun is low, Feeling
all our hopes have perished With the flower we cherished so."
A. The language of this stanza was commonly used by poets of the past to
describe the death of a child, which must be one of the saddest
situations where death invades the family circle: Lk. 7.11-13
B. This kind of event emphasizes to our minds the impact of death on our
hearts and explains why death is such an enemy: 1 Cor. 15.25-26
C. Thus, from the standpoint of this life only, often the hopes of
people perish with the grave: Eccl. 9.10
III. Stanza 3 focuses upon the joy of heaven
"We shall sleep, but not forever, In the lone and silent grave: Blessed
be the Lord that taketh, Blessed be the Lord that gave.
In the bright eternal city, Death can never, never come! In His own good
time He'll call us, From our rest, to home, sweet home."
A. Because we shall not sleep forever in the grave, we can face even
death with the attitude of Job: Job 1.21
B. Rather, we can look forward to a bright eternal city where death can
never come: Rev. 21.1-4
C. Therefore, death is merely that time when He will call us to rest
from our labors and wait the day when we shall have our eternal home:
CONCL.: The chorus repeats the first four lines of the opening
"We shall sleep, but not forever, There will be a glorious dawn!
We shall meet to part, no, never, On the resurrection morn!"
Songs of this nature were extremely popular in the latter part of the
nineteenth century, but toward the end of the twentieth century were
deemed by many as "too sentimental" and dropped from most hymnbooks.
Opinions will obviously vary, but since we are to teach and admonish one
another in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, certainly there
should be some use for a spiritual song that reminds us, "We Shall Sleep,
But Not Forever."
Wayne S. Walker
9024 Amona Dr.
Affton, MO 63123
home phone: (314) 638-4710
office phone: (314) 544-1612
e-mail: wswalker310 at juno.com
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