“O Think of the Home Over There”

"…They shall walk with Me in white…" (Rev. 3.4)

     INTRO.: A song which pictures the redeemed saints of all ages walking with Christ in white is "O Think of the Home Over There" (#206 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #359 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by DeWitt Clinton Huntington, who was born at Townsend, VT, on Apr. 27, 1830, and educated at Syracuse University.  Becoming a Methodist minister in 1853, he worked with Methodist churches in Rochester, Syracuse, and Alion, NY, Bradford, PA, and Lincoln, NE, during his lifetime. Also, he served three times as a presiding elder in New York, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska.

     These words were produced apparently sometime prior to 1868. The tune (Home Over There) was composed by Tullius Clinton O’Kane (1830-1912). It is reported that O’Kane cut the poem out of some newspaper and put it with others in his portfolio, intending later to give it a musical setting sometime when he felt like it. One Sunday afternoon, he opened his portfolio and, turning over the various selections, came across this one again. Something seemed to tell him, "Now’s your time." Studying the hymn intently for a few moments, he began improvising melody and harmony, and the song was born.

     Most sources give the date as 1868, which would mean that the hymn was possibly first published in O’Kane’s Fresh Leaves, published that year by Philip Phillips and Co. of New York City, NY. However, others sources say that it did not appear until his Additional Fresh Leaves, a Supplement to Fresh Leaves, which was published in 1873. In later years, Huntington served as Chancellor of Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln from 1898 to 1908. After his retirement, he was appointed professor of Bible with the university and lived at Lincoln until he died there on Feb. 8, 1912.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1917 Selected Revival Songs edited by F. L. Rowe; 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; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch.  Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; 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; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections, as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song asks us to think about some things that will be in the eternal city.

I. Stanza 1 reminds us that the river of life will be over there
"O think of the home over there By the side of the river of light,
Where the saints all immortal and fair Are robed in their garments of white."
 A. God is preparing a home for His people in the heavenly city: Heb. 11.16
 B. Just as most people have built homes near a supply of water, so our eternal home will be by the side of the river of life: Rev. 22.1-2
 C. As we dwell there, we shall be robed in garments of white: Rev. 7.9, 13-14

II. Stanza 2 reminds us that the redeemed of all ages will be over there
"O think of the friends over there, Who before us the journey have trod,
Of the songs that they breathe on the air, In their home in the palace of God."
 A. You will notice a slight difference of the wording in this as well as the third and fourth stanzas in some books. Ellis J. Crum in Sacred Selections changed "friends" to "saints," and Shepard and Stevens follow this change in Hymns for Worship. Apparently, Crum does not believe that Christians will have any "friends" or "loved ones" in heaven! Certainly, we recognize that any friends that we have in heaven will be among those who were redeemed by the blood of Christ: Rev. 5.9-10
 B. Yet, one of the great blessings of heaven will be the reunion with those of our friends and loved ones who are now asleep in Jesus: 1 Thess. 4.14-17
 C. As we rise together to meet the Lord in the air, we shall have our home in the palace of God in that eternal city: Rev. 21.1-2

III. Stanza 3 reminds us that our Savior is now and will be over there
"My Savior is now over there; There my kindred and friends are at rest.
Then away from my sorrow and care, Let me fly to the land of the blest."
 A. The Savior is now over there because He ascended to heaven to sit at God’s right hand: Eph. 1.19-21
 B. Again, Ellis Crum changed "my kindred and friends" to "the saved and the saints," but again we understand that our kindred and friends over there, waiting the second coming, general resurrection, and final judgment, are those who have died in the Lord and are now at rest: Rev. 14.13
 C. While we long to see our departed friends in Christ again, heaven will be the land of the blest primarily because of the opportunity to be with our Savior for all eternity: Phil. 1.21-23

IV. Stanza 4 reminds us that our eternal home is over there
"I’ll soon be at home over there, For the end of my journey I see;
Many dear to my heart over there Are watching and waiting for me."
 A. This is not saying that Christ is coming soon, but that relatively soon my spirit will return to God who gave it where it too will wait in the heavenly places or spiritual realm for the second coming, general resurrection, and final judgment: Eccl. 12.7
 B. Of course, "the end of my journey" refers to the time of death: Heb. 9.27
 C. Still again, Crum changed "many dear to my heart over there" to "all the saints and the angels up there," but the important thing to remember is that "home" is one of the sweetest words in any language, and heaven will be the home of the righteous where they will enjoy eternal life: Matt. 25.46

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the blessings of heaven mentioned in each stanza, as we see with stanza 1:
"Over there, over there, O think of the home over there,
Over there, over there, over there, O think of the home over there."
When this life becomes weary and the troubles of earth seem to abound, we can teach and admonish one another by saying, "O Think of the Home Over There."


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