by Lawrence G. Downing, June 26, 2016:    A Brief Examination of Early Adventist Hymnody and How the Hymns Reflect/Shape the View of the Parish Toward Its Community

From earliest times hymns have served to unite and inspire Adventist believers. What we as a church sing, our hymns, whether by intent or default, express in subtle and direct ways our theology and practices.

It is my hypothesis that the hymns published in the first Adventist hymnals reflect or, perhaps in stronger terms, shaped how the first Adventists understood their community, their mission and their world. We will find that the hymns sung by Adventist congregations Sabbath after Sabbath employ metaphors and similes to inspire church members to take advantage of the opportunities that await development for the church and the kingdom. The writers weigh in on opportunity that is within the community and the Advent believers are admonished to take immediate action. In the early hymns one looks in vain for hints that community needs or humanitarian response are part of the equation. The world is a field awaiting harvesters to go forth and reap. The world was viewed as a lonely place and escape from it near, even at the door. An examination of the early Adventist hymns suggests that the community and its people are more to be exploited than to be nurtured, ministered to or understood.

This examination of Adventist hymns may help us understand the suspicion Adventists have toward involvement in our community, except for evangelistic purposes, and the reluctance Adventists have had to engage their community and our reluctance to be involved in the political arena.

*Chronology of the Early Adventist Hymnals

1.  Hymns for God’s Peculiar People; That Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus, Based on The Millennial Harp or Second Advent Hymns published by Joshua V. Himes, 1842, 1843, 1848.

1.  Hymns for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus.

1869.  Hymns and Tunes for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus.  First official General Conference Hymnal

1886    The Seventh-day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book (Hymns and Tunes)

1900    Christ in Song  (Revised 1908)

1941.     The Church Hymnal (First official hymnal since 1886)

1985.     The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal

Hymns For God’s Peculiar People That Keep The Commandments of God (1849)
Compiled by James White
Oswego, NY
53 hymns; 47 pages (Text Only) No authors listed

Second Advent History

Lo an angel loud proclaiming,
Brings the gospel of good cheer. . . .

Lo! Another angel follows,
With another solemn cry. . . .

Yet, a third and solemn message,
Now proclaims a final doom
All who “worship Beast or Image
Soon shall drink the wrath of God:
Without mixture,
Mercy now no longer pleads.

Here they are, who now are waiting,
And have patience to endure;
While the Dragon’s hosts are raging
These confide in God secure:
Faith of Jesus;
And COMMANDMENTS, keep them pure.

Washing Feet—An Old Hymn

When Jesus Christ was here below,
He taught his people what to do.
And if we would his precepts keep,
We must attend to washing feet.

The Lord who made the earth and sky,
Arose and laid his garments by;
And wash’d their feet to show that we,
Like Christ, should always humble be.

He wash’d them all, tho’ all were clean,
Save Judas, who was full of sin.
May none of us, like Judas, sell
Our Lord for gold, and go to hell

The Seal

Behold a light appears,
The holy sabbath (sic) day,
And magnified so clear,
That none may need to stray;
Though small at first, as sun beam’s ray,
Its strength ascends to perfect day.

It is the message clear
Ascending from the east,
God’s servants now appear
Who will not worship “BEAST;”

Four angels hold the winds reveal’d
Until God’s servants all are seal’d
. . .
The Sabbath is a sign,
A mark which all may see,

And sure will draw a line
When servants all are seal’d
And while destruction’s in the land
This mark will guard the waiting band.


Oh, spare thy people, Lord,
and bring them full salvation;
Fulfill they faithful word,

Rescue the sleeping nation;
Thou voice of God should from on high;
The signal give for reaping;

Come thou and reap the harvest dry;
Oh, gather all the sleeping:
Spare now the “remnant,” Lord,

The foe doth yet pursue them.
Oh, for thy blessed word,
Do thou with strength renew them.

Have You Faith?

Jesus our Saviour (sic) says—I will appear!
Have you faith?
My trumpet is sounding majestic and clear!
Have you faith?
The faithful alone I come to see,
And they shall live and reign with me,
Only have faith!  [Three verses end with this imperative]


Ripe is the vintage of the earth;
Its clustering grapes are round and full;
And vengeance, vengeance bursts to birth,
Sudden and irresistible!
Messiah comes to tread amain, (sic)
The wine-press of the battle-plain

The cry is up, the strife begun,
The struggle of the mighty ones;
And Armageddon’s day comes on,
The carnival of Slaughter’s sons;
War lifts his helmet to his brow:
O God, protect thy people now!

This World Is Not My Home

Farewell! farewell! to all below,
My Jesus calls and I must go:
I’ll launch my boat upon the sea,
This land is not the land for me.
This world is not my home: (4 X repeated) (Sic)

Farewell! my friends! I’ll not stay here—
The home I seek will soon appear;
Where Christ is not I cannot be;
This land is not the land for me
This world is not my home, &c.

I’m a Traveler

I’m a lonely trav’ller here,
Weary, opprest; (sic)
But my journey’s end is near,
Soon I shall rest.

Dark and dreary is the way,
Toiling I’ve come—
Ask me not with you to stay—
Yonder’s my home.

Here Is No Rest

Here, o’er the earth as a stranger I roam,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here as a pilgrim I wander alone,
Yet I am blest—I am blest

CHORUS [One of 4—all different]
Let them revile me, and scoff at my name,
Laugh at my weeping—endeavor to shame;
I will go forward, for this is my theme;
There, there is rest—there is rest

Here are afflictions and trials severe;
Here is no rest—is no rest;…

This world of cares is a wilderness state,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here I must bear from the world all its hate—
Yet I am blest—I am blest.

The Little Flock

How happy are the little flock,
Who, safe beneath their guardian Rock,
In all commotions rest;
When war’s and tumult’s waves run high,
Unmov’d above the storm they lie,
And lodge in Jesus’ breast

Such happiness O Lord, have we,
By mercy gather’d into thee,
Before the floods descend;
And while the bursting cloud comes down,
We mark the vengeful day begun,
And calmly wait the end.

The plague, and dearth, and din of war,
Our saviour’s (sic) swift approach declare,
And bid our hearts arise;
Earth’s basis shook, confirms our hope;
Its cities’ fall but lifts us up,
To meet thee in the skies.

A Pilgrim and a Stranger

1. I’m a pilgrim and I’m a stranger;
I can tarry, I can tarry, but a night;
Do not detain me, for I am going
To where the fountains are ever flowing,
I’m a pilgrim and I’m a stranger, &c.

2. There the glory is ever shining!
O, my longing heart, my longing heart is there;
Here in this country so dark and dreary,
I long have wander’d forlorn and weary.

4. Farewell, dreary earth, by sin so blighted,
In immortal beauty soon you’ll be arrayed!
He who has form’d thee, will soon restore thee!
And then thy dread curse shall never more be:
I’m a pilgrim, and I’m a stranger,
Till thy rest shall end the weary pilgrim night.

The Fall of Babylon

1. Hail the day so long expected,
Hail the day of full release;
Zion’s walls are now erected,
And her watchmen publish peace;
Throughout Shiloh’s wide dominion,
Hear the trumpet loudly roar,
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.

2. Come “my people” and forsake her,
Cast away our slavish fears’
Hear the voice from heaven proclaiming
It’s the end of all her years.
Raise your voices she is fallen,
Lift your banners up on high,
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen, &c.

[Observations on Hymns for God’s Peculiar People 1849

Hymns are doctrinal, state the transitory nature of this world, describe the believer’s isolation, or express their hope for a better land. No hymns promote outreach, care for others, saving the lost, going to the world.]

Hymns for Second Advent Believers Who Observe the Sabbath of the Lord (1852)

Rochester, N. Y.
Published by James White
139 hymns; 108  pages
Supplement: 36; 30 pages
No credits listed

Despised Pilgrims

1. WHAT poor despised company
Of travelers are these,
Who walk in yonder narrow way,
Along the rugged maze?

2. Ah, these are of a royal line,
All children of a King….

3. Why do they then appear so mean,
and why so much despised?
Because of their rich robes unseen,
The world is not appriz’d

4. Why do they shun the pleasing path,
That worldlings love so well?
Because that is the road to death,
The open road to hell

5. What, is there then no other road
To Salem’s happy ground?
Christ is the only way to God,
No other can be found.

The Exile

There is a land, a better land than this—
There’s my home, there’s my home!
A land of pure, unbounded, perfect bliss—
There’s my home, there’s my home;
A captive on this desert shore,
I long to count my exile o’er,
And be where sorrows come no more:
There’s my home, there’s my home.

Far, far I am from my own happy shore—
I would go, I would go.
But yet my days of exile are not o’er:—
I would go, I would go.
I would not stay though earth were mine;
Though all its treasures for me shine,
A captive here I still should pine—
I would go, I would go.

I Walk Alone

1. I WALK a lonely pilgrim here
O’er life’s uneven way;
But my aching heart keeps hoping on
For the bright, the better day.

2. I walk alone and oft am sad,
And falls the briny tear;
My heart is grieved with trials sore,
And pressed with many a care.

Harvest Home

1. THOUGH in the outward church below,
The wheat and tares together grow;
Jesus ere long will weed the crop,
And pluck the tares in anger up.
For soon the reaping time will come,
And angels should the harvest home.

2. Will it relieve their horrors there,
To recollect their stations here;
How much they heard, how much they knew
How much among the wheat they grew?
For soon the reaping time will, &c (sic)

No! This will aggravate their case,
They perish’d under means of grace,
To them the word of life and faith
Became an instrument of death
For soon the reaping time will, &c.

[Observations on Hymns for Second Advent Believers Who Observe the Sabbath of the Lord
Like the previous hymnal, the hymns are doctrinal, state the transitory nature of this world, describe the believer’s isolation, or express their hope for a better land. No hymns promote outreach, care for others, saving the lost, going to the world.]

Hymns and Tunes for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus (1869)

Steam Press of the Seventh-Day Adventist Publishing Association
Battle Creek, MICH

Pages: 416
Hymns not numbered
No Music
No credits


No. 93 S. M. [Slow Meter]

DID Christ o’er sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief
Burst forth from every eye.

The Son of God in tears
The wond’ring angels see;
Be thou astonished, O my soul,
He shed those tears for thee.

Social Worship

No. 452 7 s & 6 s.

1. HOW long, O Lord our Saviour,
Wilt thou remain away!
Our hearts are growing weary
At thy so long delay.
Oh! when shall come the moment
When, brighter far than morn,
The sunshine of thy glory
Shall on thy people dawn?

2. How long, O gracious Master,
Wilt thou thy household leave?
So long hast thou now tarried,
Few thy return believe.
Immersed in sloth and folly,
Thy servants, Lord, we see;
And few of us stand ready
With joy to welcome thee.

The Seventh-Day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book For Use in Divine Worship (1886)

Published by the General Conference
Battle Creek, Mich.”
Review & Herald Publishing House
Oakland, CA.:
Pacific Press
Credits Given
Some Music supplied
Hymns: 1413; Pages: 620

No. 381

1. GOD’S holy law, transgressed,
Speaks nothing but despair;
Burdened with guilt, with grief oppressed,
We find no comfort there.

2. Not all our groans and tears,
Nor works which we have done,
Nor vows, nor promises, nor prayers,
can e’er for sin atone.

3 Relief alone is found
In Jesus’ precious blood;
‘Tis this that heals the mortal wound,
And reconciles to God.

4. High lifted on the cross,
The spotless Victim dies
This is salvation’s only source
Whence all our hopes arise.

No. 1023

1. Let party names no more
The Christian world o’erspread;
Gentile and Jew, and bond and free,
Are one in Christ, their Head.

2. Among the saints on earth
Let mutual love be found
Heirs of the same inheritance
With mutual blessings crowned.

3. Thus will the church below
Resemble that above
Where streams of pleasure ever flow,
And every heart is love.

4. And till we reach that place,
Our daily prayer shall be
That we may dwell before thee, Lord,
In love and unity.

No. 1032

“Go, preach my gospel,” saith the Lord,
Bid the whole world my grace receive;
He shall be saved who trusts my word,
And they condemned who disbelieve.

No. 1035

Ye Christian heralds! go, proclaim
Salvation through Immanuel’s name,
To distant climes the tidings bear,
And plant the Rose of Sharon there.

No. 1038

Go, messenger of peace and love,
To people plunged in shades of night;
Like angels sent from fields above
Be thine to shed celestial light.

Go to the hungry, food impart;
To paths of peace the wanderer guide;
And lead the thirsty, panting heart,
Where streams of living water glide.

O, faint not in the day of toil,
When harvest waits the reaper’s hand,
Go gather in the glorious spoil
And joyous in his presence stand.

No. 1048

The vineyard of the Lord
Before his laborers lies,
And lo! we see the last reward
Which waits us in the sky.

No. 1053

Ho! Reapers of life’s harvest,
Why stand with rusty blade,
Until the night draws round thee,
And day begins to fade?

Thrust in your sharpened sickle,
And gather in the grain;
The night is fast approaching,
And soon will come again.

The Master calls for reapers,
And shall he call in vain?
Shall sheaves lie there ungathered,
And waste upon the plain?

No. 1058

In the vineyard of our father
Daily work we find to do;
Scattered gleanings we may gather,
Through we are but young and few;
Little clusters, little clusters
Help to fill the garners too.

No. 1068

Brother, you may work for Jesus;
God has given you a place
In some portion of his vineyard,
And will give sustaining grace.

He has bidden you to labor
And has promised a reward—
Even joy and life eternal
In the kingdom of your Lord.

No. 1069

1. Hark! the voice of Jesus calling,—
“Who will go and work today?”
Fields are white, the harvest waiting,
Who will bear the sheaves away?
Loud and long the Master calleth,
Rich reward he offers free
Who will answer, gladly saying,
“Here am I, O Lord, send me”?

2. If you cannot cross the ocean
And the heathen lands explore,
You can find the heathen nearer,
You can help them at your door;
If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say he died for all.

Christ in Song (1908)

Hymns: 950; Pages: 574
Copyright F. E. Belden. (Revised and Enlarged)

No. 818   Brotherhood of Men                                 (J. S. Dwight)

God bless our native land!
May Heaven’s protecting hand
Still guard our (sic) shore;
May peace her pow’r extend,
Foe be transformed to friend,
And all our rights depend
On war no more.

May just and righteous laws
Uphold the public cause,
And bless our name;
Home of the brave and free,
Stronghold of Liberty,
We pray that still on thee
May rest no stain.

And not this land alone,
But by thy mercies known
From shore to shore;
O that all men would see
That they should brothers be,
And form one family,
Thy wide world o’er!

No. 809    What Is the Chaff?                                  (I. Watts)

What is the chaff, the word of man,
When set against the wheat?
Can it a dying soul sustain,
Like that immortal meat?

Thy word, O God, with heav’nly bread
Thy children doth supply;
And those who by thee are fed,
Their souls shall never die.  [Bold mine—to emphasize the theology expressed]

No. 842     A Stranger Here                                     Thos. R. Taylor

I’m but a stranger here,
Heav’n is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heav’n is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on ev’ry hand,
Heav’n is my Fatherland,
Heaven is my home.

NO. 561    Bring Them In                                         A. Thomas

Hark! ‘tis the shepherd’s voice I hear,
Out in the desert dark and drear,
Calling the sheep who’ve gone astray,
Far from the Shepherd’s fold away.
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, Bring them in,
Bring the wanderers to Jesus.

Out in the desert hear their cry,
Out on the mountain wild and high,
Hark! ’tis the Master speaks to thee,
“Go, find my sheep where’er they be.”

No. 596   Buy Up the Opportunity                          J. R. Clements

Buy up the opportunity,
O Christian, buy today!
For Heaven’s ageless mansions buy,
Buy treasures while you may.

Buy up the opportunity,
It may not long remain!
The evil hosts are bidding, too,
These precious souls to gain.

Buy up the opportunity,
Pay any price to win!
With Heaven’s legions watching you,
To falter will be sin.

Buy up the opportunity,
At home; in lands afar;
Go quickly! Find the jewels rare,–
Each soul a glowing star.


Buy up the opportunity,
The souls from whom Christ died,
Buy up the opportunity,
Buy for the Crucified.

No. 547   The Call for Reapers                                J. O. Thompson

Far and near the fields are teeming
With the sheaves of ripening grain;
Far and near their gold is gleaming,
o’er the sunny slope and plain.

Send them forth with morn’s first beaming,
Send them in the noontide’s glare….

O thou whom thy Lord is sending,
Gather now the sheaves of gold;
Heav’nward then at evening wending
Thou shalt come with joy untold.


Lord of harvest, send forth reapers!
Hear us, Lord, to thee we cry.
Send them now the sheaves to gather,
Ere the harvest time pass by.

No. 548     Where Are the Reapers?                                    E. E. Rexford

O where are the reapers that garner in
The sheaves of the good from the fields of sin?
With sickles of truth must the work be done,
And no one may rest till the “harvest home.”

Go out in the highways and search them all;
The wheat may be there, though the weeds are tall. . . .

The fields are all rip’ning, and far and wide
The world now is waiting the harvest tide;
But reapers are few, and the work is great,
And much will be lost should the harvest wait.

So come with your sickles, ye sons of men,
And gather together the golden grain;
Toil on till the Lord of the harvest come,
Then share ye his joy in the “harvest home.”


Where are the reapers? O who will come
And share in the glory of the “harvest home”?
O, who will help us to garner in
The sheaves of good from the fields of sin?

No. 570     Hold On.                                                              J. P. Ellis

If your hand’s on the plow, hold on, hold on;
Tho’ the soil may be sterile and hard,
The plowshare will make the fallow ground break,
And the plowman will have his reward;
Earth’s bosom will sparkle with emerald green,
And its grain will be golden king;
The reapers will come, with loud “Harvest Home,”
And the gleaners will joyfully sing.

No. 479     Rescue the Perishing                                          Fanny Crosby

Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave:
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

No. 718     The World Is Very Evil                                      J. Neale

The world is very evil, The times are waxing late;
Be sober and keep vigil; The Judge is at the gate,—
The judge who comes in mercy, The Judge who comes in might,—
Who comes to end the evil, Who comes to crown the right.

The hymns selected are but a small sample of the hymns, sung Sabbath by Sabbath by the early Advent believers.  The words express a variety of feelings, hopes and fears. An examination of the words provides insight into how the music sung Sabbath by Sabbath shaped the theology and perspectives of the early Advent believers. I will leave it to others to compare the above hymns to the music sung by today’s Adventist congregants and how contemporary music may influence theology and world-view.



Selected hymns from the early Adventist hymnals. Items in brackets [ ] are my comments.

Larry DowningLawrence (Larry) Downing, D.Min., is retired after more than 40 years as a parish minister serving Seventh-day Adventist churches on both Coasts.  He was also an adjunct faculty in the School of Business and the School of Theology at La Sierra University.  He is married to Arleen.  Together, they have three grown children and six grandchildren.  Larry and Arleen reside part time in Rancho Cordova, CA and in San Luis Obispo, CA.  

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