This song appears in Bliss’ memoirs, possibly written after he had moved his aged father to live near him in Rome, Pennsylvania:
During this period of his life at Rome, from the proceeds of his singing schools, [Bliss] saved up a few hundred dollars, and bought a little cottage, to which he removed his parents, and for a time set up housekeeping.
The dear old father, who had passed most of his days in humble homes in the backwoods, was now sixty-five years of age. The little cottage in Rome was a better home than he had ever lived in.
Many months his children,
Lou, had planned the surprise that awaited him. They had saved in every possible way to buy and plainly furnish the little home. When all was made ready, Father Bliss was sent for.
The day of his arrival in Rome, he stopped at Father Young’s for dinner. In the afternoon, the happy children took the gentle, laughing, gray-haired old Christian in the wagon, and riding along the one village street, asked him to pick out the house that they had selected to be his home.
Two or three times he essayed to express his choice, picking out the humblest, and each time taking a poorer one, until at last he gave up, a little troubled that he might have been too ambitious. When the happy Phil, almost too full to contain himself, turned the team, and driving back up the street, stopped at a pretty little cottage, a neat piazza in front, a large yard filled with blossoming lilacs and budding apple trees.
It looked very beautiful; and as the strong man lifted his father from the wagon, it was a very happy hour to him, as he said,
This is your home, father. The dear old man sat down in a chair placed for him upon the stoop, and, with tears running down his cheeks, said,
Phil, I never expected to have so good a home on earth as this.
Here the last months of the life of the old saint passed away sweetly, peacefully and happily. The remembrance of these, his last days, were always exceedingly precious to Mr. and Mrs. Bliss. The burden of life in some degree rolled away, and he entered more into the sunlight that awaited him in fullness in the life beyond.
The first time I ever saw Father Bliss, Mrs. Bliss once told me,
he reproved me for laughing on Sunday. Brought up by a Puritan father, living in communion with God, drinking daily from the Bible, the only book he ever read, life was to him very solemn, and everything around him was related to God and to eternity. His children all felt this atmosphere in their association with him, and none of them drank in more of the father’s sense of the reality of eternal things than did his son.
There is a root and stalk for every beautiful flower that blooms, a spring for every flowing stream; and all that has given power on the earth to Philip Bliss’ songs finds its root in the Bible of the Hebrews, its stalk in the living characters developed by that Bible among the Puritans. The stream of melody that flowed through him, making glad the people of God, had its spring in the intense reality of spiritual things that came down to him from a godly ancestry.
During these months with his children, the father laid aside everything of austerity that had ever associated itself with him, and was like a happy child. Mr. Bliss often thanked God for His goodness in permitting him to have the joy of making his dear father happy, and of being with him in his last days.
In January, 1864, after only a few months in the home he thought so much better than he was entitled to, the father died, and was taken to his Heavenly home, to meet the great surprise of knowing what
God hath prepared for them that love Him.
There can be no more fitting close…to this [story] than the song of Mr. Bliss, written, much of it, from personal recollection, and which he usually prefaced, in singing, by a few remarks about his father, and by saying, very devoutly,
I thank God for a godly ancestry.
Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss, edited by Daniel W. Whittle (New York; Chicago, Illinois; and New Orleans, Louisiana (A. S. Barnes, 1877), pages 26–27