“I’m a Pilgrim”

"…And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb. 11.13)

     INTRO.: A hymn which urges us to have the kind of commitment to Christ that we will confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth is "I’m A Pilgrim." The text was written by Mrs. Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer Dana Shindler, who was born on Feb. 15, 1810, in Beaufort, SC, the daughter of Benjamin M. Palmer, a minister of the Independent, or Congregational Church. The family moved to Charleston, SC, when she was four. After being educated at several ladies’ seminaries in Charleston; Hartford, CN; Elizabethtown, NJ; and New Haven, CN; she married Charles W. Dana, evidently a Unitarian, of New York in 1835, and they had a son in 1837. In the summer of 1839, they moved to Bloomington (now Muscatine), IA. The following year, she published a volume of poetry entitled The Southern Harp. This hymn was first published in the 1841/1842 edition of this book. Also that year, her husband and young son died of a fever during an epidemic, and she returned to South Carolina, where she devoted herself to literary works that included The Northern Harp in 1841, The Parted Family and Other Poems in 1842, The Young Patriot in 1843, Letters to Relatives and Friends in 1845, and Forecastle Tom in 1846.

     In 1851, Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer Dana married Robert D. Shindler, a Protestant Episcopal minister of Upper Marlborough, MD. Later they moved to Shelbyville, KY, where Mr. Shindler became a professor at Shelby College, and then to Nacogdoches, TX. A couple of her other hymns that have appeared in some of our books are "Flee As A Bird" and "There’ll Be No Sorrow There." Also, she has sometimes been wrongly credited with "Prince of Peace, Control My Will." After living with her son Robert in Nacogdoches, she died there on Feb. 8, 1883. The tune (Italian Air) is sometimes identified as an Italian air and sometimas as coming "From the German." It was arranged by Edmund Simon Lorenz (1854-1842). I have been able to find no further information about it. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use among churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The song reminds us that our lives here on earth are just a pilgrimage toward eternity.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes our pilgrimage
"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."
 A. God’s people are pilgrims and strangers: 1 Pet. 2.11-12
 B. We can tarry but a night and cannot allow ourselves to be detained by ungodliness and worldly lusts: Tit. 2.11-12
 C. The reason is that we are striving to reach that place where the fountains of life are ever flowing: Rev. 7.17

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the place to which we journey
"Of that city [country] to which I journey [I’m going], My Redeemer, my Redeemer is the Light.
There is [There’ll be] no sorrow, nor any sighing, Nor any tears there, nor any dying."
 A. Christians are journeying to a country or city which is better than anything here: Heb. 11.14-16, 13.14
 B. It is a place where our Redeemer is the light: Rev. 21.23
 C. And it is a place where there will be no sorrow, sighing, tears, or dying: Rev. 21.4

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the contrast between that place and this life
"There the sunbeams are [glory is] ever shining; O my longing heart, my longing heart is there.
Here in this country, so dark and dreary, I long have wandered, forlorn and weary."
 A. The saints look forward to being in a place where the sunbeams of God’s glory are ever shining: Rev. 21.10-11
 B. We need to be laying up treasures there because where our treasures are our hearts will be also: Matt. 6.19-21
 C. In contrast, the country of this world is dark and dreary because it lies under the evil one: 1 Jn. 5.19

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the fact that someday our pilgrimage will end
"Farewell sisters, farewell my brethren, Our pilgrimage, our pilgrimage soon ends.
We’ll see each other sometime in glory, And see earth’s sufferings but preparatory."
 A. Our pilgrimage soon ends because even if it is eighty years or more, it is soon cut off and we fly away: Ps. 90.10
 B. However, the followers of Christ have the hope that when the Lord returns, we will be raised from the dead and be reunited with those who have gone on before: 1 Thess. 4.15-17
 C. Then, we shall be able to understand that the sufferings of earth were but preparatory chastening to yield the peacable fruit of
righteousness: Heb. 12.5-11

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the opening two lines of the song:
"I’m a pilgrim, and I’m a stranger;
I can tarry, I can tarry but a night."
Several alterations, none of which seem to be any material changes, have been made in our books to Mrs. Shindler’s wording, and I have noted the original in brackets. As one who is supposed to be committed to following Christ, it is always important for me to remember in my journey here upon this earth heading toward eternity and, hopefully, a home in heaven, that "I’m A Pilgrim."


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