Moses went…to the top of Pisgah…and the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan. Deuteronomy 34:1
Words: Isaac Watts, Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1707, Book 2, number 66.
A prospect of Heaven makes death easy.
According to tradition it came to [Watts] one summer day while he was gazing across the gulf-river, Southampton Water; and the pleasant fields near Netley are said to have suggested thesweet fields beyond the swelling flood.
That the hymn was produced about this time is certain. It cannot be assigned to an earlier date, for it is one of Watts’ most perfect productions, and the work was of no prentice hand. Then, too, it must have been written in the summer, and at a time when its author was out of health, and probably often in pain.
Wright, p. 70
Oh, I do not know how we shall stand the first day in heaven. Do you not think we will break down in the song from ov-er-delight? I once gave out in church the hymn:
There is a land of pure delight
Where saints immortal reign,
And an aged man standing in front of the pulpit sang heartily the first verse, and then he sat down weeping. I said to him afterward,Fa-ther Linton, what made you cry over that hymn?He said,I could not stand it—the joys that are coming.
—T. Dewitt Talmage. [1832–1902], quoted in Crafts, p. 117
There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav’nly land from ours.
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
Stand dressed in living green:
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.
But timorous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea;
And linger, shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.
O! Could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy thoughts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes!
Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore.