“Beautiful Valley of Eden”

"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4.9)

     INTRO.: A song which focuses our minds on the rest that still remains for the people of God is "Beautiful Valley of Eden" (#435 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by William (not Walter as in some books) Orcutt Cushing (1823-1902). He was a minister among the Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ in the late 19th century who produced many hymn texts, such as "Ring the bells of heaven," "When He cometh," "Down in the valley with my Savior I would go" (or "I Will Follow Jesus"), "Under His wings I am safely abiding," "Hiding in Thee," and in 1875, this one. The tune (Kelley) was composed by William Fiske (or Fisk) Sherwin, who was born at buckland, MA, on Mar. 14, 1826. His early educational opportunities were few, but beginning at age 15 he went to Boston, MA, and received his music education under several well-known teachers of his day, including hymntune composer Lowell Mason (1782-1872).

     Later, Sherwin became a teacher of vocal music and worked at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Also, he held several important posts in Hudson, Albany, and New York City, NY. Because he possessed extraordinary ability in organizing and directing amateur choirs, he was chosen to be music director of the Methodist Chautauqua Assembly in western New York state, even though he was a Baptist. His two most famous melodies were provided for "Break Thou the Bread of Life," which has also been used with other texts, and "Day Is Dying in the West," both Chautauqua hymns with words by Mary Artemesia Lathbury (1841-1913). His melody for "Beautiful Valley of Eden" was first published in 1877 and appeared in Sacred Songs and Solos compiled by Ira David Sankey (1840-1908).

     Sherwin took an interest in Sunday school music, producing several other songs such as "Sound the Battle Cry," and assisting in the compilation of several books, including the 1869 Bright Jewels with Robert Lowry (1826-1899). For many years, he served as an editor for the Biglow and Main Publishing Co. of New York City, and died in Boston, MA, on Apr. 14, 1888. Among hymnbooks published by brethren during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Beautiful Valley of Eden" appeared in the 1937 Great Songs for the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) and the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Therefore, it was available to a large number of brethren for many years. However, most newer books have omitted it, and the only one currently in print that I know of which includes it is the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard, as well as Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song reminds us of the beauty of heaven.

I. In stanza 1, heaven is compared to Eden
"Beautiful valley of Eden, Sweet is thy noontide calm,
Over the hearts of the weary, Breathing thy waves of balm."
 A. The "valley of Eden" makes us think of the wonderful paradise that God created for mankind at the beginning: Gen. 2.8-10; the point is that the paradise that was lost in Eden will be regained in heaven
 B. The hope for this wonderful place is sweet to the hearts of the weary when they remember that in due season thay will reap if they faint not: Matt. 11.28-30, Gal. 6.9
 C. Thus, this hope breathes into God’s people waves of balm: Jer. 8.22

II. In stanza 2, heaven is identified as a place of comfort
"Over the heart of the mourner Shineth thy golden day,
Wafting the songs of the angels Down from the far away."
 A. Heaven is the place where those who mourn will ultimately be comforted: Matt. 5.4
 B. Instead of the night of sadness and sorrow, heaven will be one perfect day: Prov. 4.18
 C. During this eternal day, the songs of the angels will be heard forever, and even now they waft down to us as we listen to the message of God’s word: Rev. 5.11-12

III. In stanza 3, heaven is called the home of the Savior
"There is the home of my Savior; There with the blood-washed throng,
Over the highlands of glory Rolleth the great new song."
 A. Heaven is the home of the Savior because He ascended there to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God: Acts 1.9-11, Heb. 8.1
 B. But it will also be the home of the blood-washed throng: Rev. 7.9-14
 C. And for all eternity they will sing the new song: Rev. 5.8-9

     CONCL.: The chorus then speaks of the desire for heaven that each child of God should have:
"Beautiful valley of Eden, Home of the pure and blest,
How often amid the wild billows I dream of thy rest, sweet rest!"
Songs of this nature, which described heaven in highly poetic language and expressed a deep longing to go there, were immensely popular in the late 1800’s. However, in the late 1900’s, fewer and fewer of these songs were being written, and many of the older ones have been forgotten, perhaps because the religious world in general has moved from an "other-worldly" attitude to one more centered on this world. Yet, as we climb the steep mountains of this life with all their trials and tribulations, moving ever closer toward life’s end and eternity, we need to remember and look forward to the rest that we can receive in the "Beautiful Valley of Eden."


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