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Words: Annie Herbert Barker (b. circa ____, 1844; d. Jan. 21, 1932)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)
Note: The song was written by Annie Barker around 1873. (The Cyber Hymnal seems in error to say 1883.) Annie Herbert was a native New Yorker, and a school teacher. She later married Mr. Barker and the two of them set off on a pioneering venture to Montana. The Wordwise Hymns link includes a most remarkable story about her and her hymn. I encourage you to check it out.
Ira Sankey, the soloist and song leader for evangelist Dwight L. Moody, not only wrote the tune for the song, but he sang it as a solo in some rather novel circumstances. He wrote about it in his book, My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns. And since my father comes into the article below, I’ll add that this happened in the city where he was born, but about two decades before he came on the scene. Mr. Sankey says:
I sang this hymn for the first time in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, in 1883, at one of Mr. Moody’s meetings. The service was held at eight o’clock on a gloomy winter morning. The hall was densely crowded and filled with mist, so much so that the people could hardly be discerned at the farther end of the hall. I felt the need of something to brighten up the meeting, and then and there decided to launch this new song. It was received with much enthusiasm, and at once became a favorite of Mr. Moody’s, and continued to be so until his death (pp. 301-302).
There is a long-ago television program, now available online, involving an elderly man named Samuel Seymour. As a boy of five, he was taken to the theatre one night, and saw a man fall from the balcony and hurt his leg. Little Sam was very concerned about him. But what he did not learn until later was that the man was John Wilkes Booth, who had just shot President Lincoln.
It brings to my mind memories we sometimes have about where we were, and what were we doing, at the time of some significant event. Where were you in 1963, when John F. Kennedy was shot? Where were you in September of 2001, when the World Trade Centre towers were destroyed in a terrorist attack? Where were you when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.
Often these seminal events involve sudden death and destruction, but not always. And even events of a more individual and personal kind can stick in our memories, and be recalled, as where we were when such-and-such too place. Weddings, births, and the graduation of family members or close friends, can sometimes be recalled in later years with vivid mental pictures.
In my teens, I was on a touring vacation with my parents, and we rented a cabin in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York. In the early morning, after a refreshing night’s rest, my father and I walked to the edge of a steep precipice and gazed on an awe-inspiring sight below. It seemed as though we were above the clouds, looking down on swirling white mists not yet burned off by the sun.
My father was a trained musician, who served in our home church as both its organist and choir director. Inspired by the scene, he began to sing a hymn with his rich baritone voice. It’s message was so fitting to what we witnessed that the incident has remained with me.
It’s possible that, in her travels, hymn writer Annie Barker actually viewed the same scene my father and I did, or one much like it. Her song speaks of how, when the mists of time have been swept aside, believers will enter God’s eternal kingdom of light and love. Her hymn is based on two particular verses of Scripture.
¤ “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Cor. 13:12).
¤ “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He [Christ] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I Jn. 3:2).
It’s appropriate that the Lord Jesus is spoken of as “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), and “the Dayspring [or Dawning] from on high” (Lk. 1:78). The Bible also refers to “the brightness of His coming” (II Thess. 2:8), and we look forward to a new day in the glory of His presence, in a city of gold in which “the Lamb is its light” (Rev. 21:23).
CH-1) When the mists have rolled in splendour
From the beauty of the hills,
And the sunlight falls in gladness
On the rivers and the rills,
We recall our Father’s promise
In the rainbow of the spray:
We shall know each other better
When the mists have rolled away.
We shall know, as we are known,
Never more to walk alone,
In the dawning of the morning
Of that bright and happy day,
We shall know each other better,
When the mists have rolled away.
CH-3) We shall come with joy and gladness,
We shall gather round the throne.
Face to face with those that love us
We shall know as we are known.
And the song of our redemption
Shall resound through endless day
When the shadows have departed
And the mists have rolled away.
1) What are some things we don’t know now about the future that we sometimes wish we did?
2) What are some reasons our all-wise heavenly Father may be keeping such things from us?