Posted by: rcottrill | October 25, 2017

There Is a Happy Land

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Words: Andrew Young (b. Apr. 23, 1807; d. Nov. 30, 1889)
Music: Happy Land, a Hindustani air, arranged by American musician Leonard P. Breedlove (nineteenth century, no specific dates available)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In his early years Andrew Young served as head master at the Niddry Street School in Edinburgh, Scotland, then as head English master at Madras College in the University of St. Andrew. After he retired he served for more than thirty years as Sunday School Superintendent of the Greenside Parish Church in Edinburgh.

Young organized the children of the Sunday School into three departments, perhaps something new at that time. Another interesting innovation was to include training in music in the third department (possibly teens). Imagine how this must have improved the hymn singing of the congregation in later years. Maybe modern Sunday School superintendents should give this some thought.

Young’s song was used in the motion picture Arsenic and Old Lace, a comedy about two spinsters with a bizarre hobby, and also in the film The King and I. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of her mother singing it, in Little House on the Prairie. In a later book she tells how some railway workers were singing a naughty parody of the hymn, but when they saw Laura’s mother coming, they stopped!

Happiness is that elusive state we’re all hoping to find. And the American Declaration of Independence calls “the pursuit of happiness” an “inalienable right.” At the time the Declaration was conceived, that seems to have meant a right to pursue prosperity and the acquire property, but it is more than that.

In the Bible, when the word “happy” is used, it seems rather to have an other-earthly dimension, referring to spiritual progress in one’s life, spiritual values, and the experience of God’s blessings. Modern translations of the Scriptures often replace the word “blessed” with “happy,” though the former word is richer than merely elated feelings.

Here are some people the Bible says are “happy” (NKJV). The nation of Israel (Deut. 33:29) ; the servants of Solomon (I Kgs. 10:8); the one whom God corrects and chastens (Job 5:17); the man who has many children (Ps. 127:4-5); the people whose God is the Lord [Jehovah]” (Ps. 144:15); the one who has wisdom (Prov. 3:13); the one who shows mercy to the poor (Prov. 14:21).

A number of verses speak of the happiness of the people of Israel because of the bountiful land God has given them (Deut. 7:13; 8:10; 28:8, 12). Canaan, the land of happiness for Israel in the Old Testament, has been taken by some hymn writers as a picture of heaven, the future place of happiness for the people of God.

One who did so was Scotsman Andrew Young. One evening, back when he was at the Niddry Street School, he was visiting in the home of one of his students. The Marshall family were all quite musical, and the student’s mother sat down at the piano and played a Hindu song with a striking melody. Young was impressed by the tune, and wrote for it some Christian words about our heavenly home.

The song was first sung by the student’s at Young’s school, and it soon was being used by Sunday Schools here and there. It was later translated into the languages of many other lands as well. It’s bright tune beautifully reflects the joy the words express.

CH-1) There is a happy land, far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand, bright, bright as day.
Oh, how they sweetly sing, worthy our Saviour King,
Loud let His praises ring–praise, praise for aye.

CH-2) Come to this happy land, come, come away;
Why will ye doubting stand, why still delay?
Oh, we shall happy be, from sin and sorrow free,
Lord, we shall live with Thee, blest, blest for aye.

CH-3) Bright, in that happy land, beams every eye;
Kept by a Father’s hand, love cannot die.
Oh, then to glory run; a crown and kingdom won;
And, bright, above the sun, reign, reign for aye.

One time, many years ago, there was a young man out hunting deer. As he made his way through the brush, he heard a woman singing. Soon he came to a clearing with a small cabin, and an elderly black woman, washing clothes, singing as she worked, “There is a happy land, far, far away.” As the hunter drew near he said, “Auntie, I see you are blind.” “No, Massa,” she I replied, “I is not blind. I can’t see you, nor these trees and rocks, nor dese yer mountains, but I can see into de kingdom, I can see de ‘Happy land, far, far away.’”

1) How will it affect our daily lives, if we can see, by faith, the “happy land far, far away”?

2) What makes you happy today?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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