Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.@1 Corinthians 15:20

Mar­garet Mac­kay, in The Am­e­thyst; or Chris­tian’s An­nu­al, 1832. The in­tro­duc­tion to the hymn reads: Sleep­ing in Je­sus. By Mrs. Mac­kay of Hedge­field. This sim­ple but ex­press­ive sen­tence is in­scribed on a tomb­stone in a rur­al bur­y­ing ground in De­von­shire, and gave rise to the fol­low­ing vers­es.

Rest (Brad­bu­ry) Wil­liam B. Brad­bu­ry, 1843 (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
William B. Bradbury (1816–1868)

I had been driv­en in a friend’s po­ny-car­riage through some of the ex­quis­ite green lanes in Dev­on­shire, wrote the auth­or of this hymn the year be­fore her death. We paused at Pen­ny­cross, at­tract­ed by a rur­al bur­i­al ground, and went in to look at the graves. It was a place of such sweet, en­tire re­pose as to leave a last­ing im­pres­sion on the mem­o­ry.

There were no ar­ti­fi­cial walks or dec­o­ra­tions, but the grass was ve­ry green, and there no un­sight­ly signs of ne­glect. On one of the stones were the words, Sleep­ing in Je­sus. It was in such en­tire keep­ing with the love­ly and peace­ful sur­round­ings that it clung to my thoughts. On ar­riv­ing at home I took a pen­cil and com­menced writ­ing the hymn, lit­tle think­ing that it would be in­scribed on ma­ny tomb­stones.

Sankey, pp. 115–17

Asleep in Jesus! Blessèd sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep;
A calm and undisturbed repose,
Unbroken by the last of foes.

Asleep in Jesus! Oh, how sweet,
To be for such a slumber meet,
With holy confidence to sing
That death has lost his venomed sting!

Asleep in Jesus! Peaceful rest,
Whose waking is supremely blessed;
No fear, no woe, shall dim that hour
That manifests the Savior’s power.

Asleep in Jesus! Oh, for me
May such a blessèd refuge be!
Securely shall my ashes lie
And wait the summons from on high.

Asleep in Jesus! time nor space
Debars this precious hiding place;
On Indian plains or Lapland snows
Believers find the same repose.

Asleep in Jesus! Far from thee
Thy kindred and their graves may be;
But there is still a blessèd sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep.