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Words: Anzentia Igene (“Angie”) Perry Chapman (b. Feb. 13, 1849; d. Apr. 25, 1889)
Music: John Harrison Tenney (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. unknown)
Note: At this point I know nothing about what caused the death of Angie Chapman at the early age of forty. Life was certainly hard for them in their pioneering missionary work. The date of John Tenney’s death is unknown, but he was still contributing to publications in 1888.
I’ve given, below, what I think is the earliest version of the words of the song. For some reason the Cyber Hymnal follows a revised version that appeared five years later. If you compare the two, I think the earlier reading (to be found in the 1889 publication shown on the Hymnary.org link) makes better sense.
Saying goodbye to those we love signals a time of parting. If it is a friend who lives in the same city we do, and attends the same church, there is every expectation we’ll soon see one another again. But what of longer separations?
A few weeks ago, our son and his family came to visit for a few days. They serve as Christian missionaries in Mexico City, and are in Canada only rarely. Yes, there is the phone, and the Internet, but it’s not the same. We may not see them again, to hug and hold, for several years. In our minds, though unstated, is the thought, “What if something happens? Was that our last goodbye?”
Unless the Lord returns first, death is a parting that looms at the end of the way for each of us. It often makes us uncomfortable to contemplate that. The separation from loved ones, and sense of loss it brings, are real, the grief is painful. Yet believers share a wonderful assurance that makes a huge difference. The Bible puts it this way: as Christians, we do not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13). There is sorrow, but it’s not a hopeless sorrow.
To fully grasp the power of that verse, it’s important to understand that the Scriptures don’t always use the word “hope” in the everyday sense. When we say, “I hope the ball game won’t be rained out on Saturday,” we are expressing a wish for something over which we have no control. But, as used in the Word of God, theologically, hope can be defined as: the joyful certainty of future blessing. “We sorrow not as others who have no [joyful certainty of future blessing].”
The Bible calls that a living hope. Through faith in our risen Saviour, and the sure promises of God, our future is not a wish or a maybe. God has “begotten us again to a living hope [the joyful certainty of future blessing] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:3-4).
Though we may part from those we love, here on earth, if we share a common faith in Christ, we’re going to see them all again. There’s a great Reunion Day coming!
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:16-18).
These soul-quieting truths have a bearing on the experience of an American missionary couple who lived over a century ago. Edwin and Angie Chapman, with their three children, were on an evangelistic tour of Kansas when tragedy struck. The children were playing with some coins, and seven-year-old Eva swallowed several of them.
That has happened to other children, and done no lasting harm, but this was different. The child sickened, and five days later, little Eva announced she was going to heaven. She gave away her childhood treasures to her family, got in her brother’s lap, sang a short hymn of faith, and passed into eternity. The grieving parents buried their daughter in Kansas and returned home.
Angie Chapman (1849-1889) had written a number of gospel songs, and she decided to create one in honour of little Eva. Early publications of the song suggest that it was inspired by the dying words of a Christian woman who said, “We shall never say goodbye in heaven.”
1) Our friends on earth we meet with pleasure,
While swift the moments fly,
Yet ever comes the thought of sadness,
That we must say, “Goodbye.”
We’ll never say goodbye in heav’n,
We’ll never say goodbye,
For in that land of joy and song,
We’ll never say goodbye.
2) How joyful is the hope that lingers,
When loved ones cross death’s sea,
That when our labours here are ended,
With them we’ll ever be.
1) On what do you base your confidence in “the joyful certainty of future blessing” in heaven?
2) Is there someone you know and pray for who lacks this assurance? How can you encourage them?