A HYMN FOR TODAY – The Shining Shore

A HYMN FOR TODAY – The Shining Shore


A HYMN FOR TODAY – The Shining Shore

(with link to Anonymous 4 “Gloryland” track)

My days are gliding swiftly by,
And I, a pilgrim stranger,
Would not detain them as they fly –
Those hours of toil and danger.

For now we stand on Jordan’s strand;
Our friends are passing over;
And, just before, the shining shore
We may almost discover.

Our absent king the watchword gave,
“Let every lamp be burning.”
We look afar, across the wave,
Our distant home discerning.

Should coming days be dark and cold,
We will not yield to sorrow,
For hope will sing with courage bold,
“There’s glory on the morrow.”

Let storms of woe in whirlwinds rise,
Each cord on earth to sever.
There, bright and joyous in the skies,
There is our home forever.

For now we stand on Jordan’s strand;
Our friends are passing over;
And, just before, the shining shore
We may almost discover. – David Nelson, 1843 (?)                                                                                                                                                                                                             Tune: Shining City – George F. Root, 1868                                                                                                                                                                                         #701 in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012

This is a fascinating hymn, one of the most popular in the 19th century – found in soldiers’ paperback hymnals from the Civil War camp revivals of both the Union and Confederate armies.  David Nelson, the author of the lyrics, was a minister who lived in Danville, KY, during the 1830’s before “removing” to Missouri.  His hymn was later set to the tune “Shining City” by George F. Root, a Chicago musician known for both hymn tunes and secular music – most famously, “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” one of the chief marching tunes of the Union armies.

The hymn seems to have fallen into disfavor following the Civil war, probably for obvious reasons of overuse and connection to memories best forgotten. (Imagine singing lines like, “Our friends are passing over,” after returning from the slaughter). This hymn sank like a stone to the bottom of “The Great Lakes of Forgotten Hymns.”  The last word of the hymn, “discover,” is also used in a sense different from “modern” usage, where it often means “to find by accident” (as in, “scientists have made a surprising new discovery”).  Here, it means almost “un-cover” or “dis-cover,” as we can almost dimly see, across on the far shore, our home, shrouded in the distant msits.

The hymn thus compares our passing from earth into heaven to Israel’s crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land, the imagery being that we are on the shore across from our “Promised Land,” heaven. As we stand before, but across from, heaven’s “shining shore,” we can glimpse it because of our lamps. We can envision heaven now, especially since friends have already gone there.  Our time on earth seems to pass quickly, and we do not wish to delay our “crossing.” Furthermore, we recognize the value of sorrow here, since it prevents us from finding this life too attractive tomake us eager for eternal rest with God. (Psalm 39:4-5; 103:1-16; Isaiah 40:6-8; Luke 12:35-40; Hebrews 4:9-11; 11:13; James 4:14).



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