Posted by: rcottrill | April 1, 2013

Ring the Bells of Heaven

Words: William Orcutt Cushing (b. Dec. 31, 1823; d. Oct. 19, 1902)
Music: George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1825)

Wordwise Hymns (William Cushing born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: George Root wrote a tune for a secular song called “The Little Octoroon,” a term referring to a child with one eighth black ancestry. (They were much concerned about such things in those days.) But Root sent the tune to William Cushing, who used it for this joyful gospel song in 1866.

No bells are mentioned in the description of the heavenly city. Harps and trumpets, yes, but no bells. (Though we are not definitely told that there are no bells in heaven.) The only bells referred to in all of God’s Word are those around the borders of the high priests robe, under the Mosaic Law (Exod. 28:33-34; 39:25-26).

That being the case, where did this idea come from, of bells being rung in heaven? Daniel de Marbelle’s 1887 song, When They Ring the Golden Bells, seems to allude to heavenly bells as well. Perhaps it’s a projection of the centuries old practice of ringing church bells for special occasions. They chime to welcome in a new year, to celebrate the birth of a prince, to mark the end of a war, and so on.

As a longtime pastor, and a student of the Scriptures, William Cushing would surely know there is no reference to literal bells in heaven. But he was using bells as a symbol of celebration. The whole gospel story is a cause for joy.

1) There was the joyful news of the angel to the shepherds that the Redeemer had been born. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11).

2) Then the Lord Jesus tells of joy in the presence of the angels, at the salvation of one who had been lost in sin. “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance….There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk. 15:7, 10).

The last two lines of CH-1 show that the author had the repentance of the prodigal son in the Lord’s parable in mind, and his restoration in the father’s house (cf. Lk. 15:20-24).

CH-1) Ring the bells of heaven! There is joy today,
For a soul, returning from the wild!
See, the Father meets him out upon the way,
Welcoming His weary, wandering child.

Glory! Glory! How the angels sing:
Glory! Glory! How the loud harps ring!
’Tis the ransomed army, like a mighty sea,
Pealing forth the anthem of the free.

3) The Apostle Paul looks forward to the joy of meeting in heaven those who’d been saved through his ministry, or who have been blessed by it in some way. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (I Thess. 2:19-20).

4) Finally, the scene around heaven’s throne will be filled with eternal rejoicing because Christ, God’s Lamb, paid our debt of sin.

“‘You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’ I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:9-12).

CH-2) Ring the bells of heaven! There is joy today,
For the wanderer now is reconciled;
Yes, a soul is rescued from his sinful way,
And is born anew a ransomed child.

1) What does it mean to you that heaven is aware of, and rejoices in, the salvation of one single person?

2) What does the reception of the repentant son in Jesus parable suggest about what God has done for the saved sinner, by His grace?

Wordwise Hymns (William Cushing born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Praise God, am so touched by by blog. Can you help me find a song to the hymn be an over comer. it goes something like this; “be an overcome only cowards yield…” i really would love to listen to this song.
    thanks a lot and God bless you for your work.

    • Thanks for your encouragement. The song Be an Overcomer is found here on

      • thanks i found the lyrics but i needed to listen to the song.


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