“Jerusalem, My Happy Home”

"Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem" (Ps. 122.2)

     INTRO.: A hymn which uses the picture of Jerusalem to symbolize the eternal home of the redeemed in heaven is "Jerusalem, My Happy Home."  This hymn has had a checkered career. The text is usually attributed to the famous early "church father" Aurelius Augustine of Hippo (353-430).  It began as a 400-word prose description of heaven drawn from Revelation and found in a Book of Meditations (Liber Meditationum) ascribed to Augustine; some believe that the section on heaven is a forgery, while others believe that the whole book may be a forgery. A versified form of some of these meditations entitled Ad perennis vitae fontem was made in Latin by Peter Damien (c. 988-1072).

     An old English translation of 26 stanzas appears in a British Museum manuscript dating to the sixteenth century (about 1600, perhaps as early as 1580-1585) and titled, " A Song made by F. B. P.," which some think stands for Francis Baker, Priest. New versions began to appear, retaining certain stanzas of earlier ones and adding new stanzas by other writers, such as David Dickson (1583-1662) in 1617 and W. Burkitt in 1647. One such version was published by James Montgomery (1771-1854).  Many of these were amalgamated into a standard form by Joseph Bromehead, who was born in 1748 and educated at Queen’s College, Oxford, from which he received his BA in 1768 and his MA in 1771. It was first published in his 1795 Psalms and Hymns for Public or Private Worship. Bromehead, who also edited The Melancholy Student (second edition) in 1776, spent most of his life at Eckington, in Derbyshire, England, where he served as a minister and died on Jan. 30, 1826.

     The adaptation that appears most often today was published in the 1801 Eckington Collection by James Boden (1757-1841). Many books use a traditional American melody (Land of Rest) harmonized by Annabel Morris Buchanan in the 1938 Folk Hymns of America. Our books which have included the hymn use a tune composed by Augustus Damon Fillmore (1823-1870). Among hymnbooks published during the twentieth century by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song was found in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie.

     The six stanzas in common use give word pictures of the heavenly Jerusalem.

I. Stanza 1 focuses upon the joy of heaven
"Jerusalem, my happy home, Name ever dear to me!
When shall my sorrows have an end In joy, and peace, and thee?"
 A. Just as Old Testament Jerusalem was the city where God placed His name among the people of Israel, so He has prepared a New Jerusalem where His name will be placed among His people for all eternity: Rev. 21.2
 B. There will be no more sorrow there: Rev.21.4
 C. Rather, those who dwell there will have joy and peace because they have obeyed God’s commandments: Rev. 22.14

II. Stanza 2 focuses upon the sights of heaven
"When shall my eyes thy heaven-built walls And pearly gates behold?
Thy bulwarks with salvation strong, And streets of shining gold?"
 A. In a vision filled with figurative language, John sees the wall of this city made of jasper: Rev. 21.18
 B. The gates are pictured as being made of pearl: Rev. 21.12-13
 C. Also, the streets are said to be pure gold: Rev. 21.21. Some have objected to songs which say "streets of gold" because the Bible says "the street of the city was pure gold." Homer Hailey explains this, saying "Plummer holds a similar view: ‘"the street" is not merely one street, but the whole collective material of which the streets are composed’ (p. 513). Probably the streets leading from each gate are joined together to make up one street" (Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 416-417).

III. Stanza 3 focuses upon the bowers of heaven
"There happier bowers than Eden’s bloom, Nor sin nor sorrow know;
Blest seats! through rude and stormy scenes, I onward press to you."
 A. The word "bower" means "a place enclosed by leafy boughs or vines; arbor." Hence, the bowers would be those formed by the tree of life which is in the middle of the street and on either side of the river: Rev. 22.1-2
 B. There will be no sin there because all who have dwelt in sin will be cast into the lake the burns with fire and brimstone which is outside the city: Rev. 21.8, 22.15
 C. It is to this happier place that the Christian presses onward: Phil. 3.14

IV. Stanza 4 focuses upon the sweetness of heaven
"O happy harbor of the saints, O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found, No grief, no care, no toil."
 A. This heavenly city is called the happy harbor because earlier in the book of Revelation God’s throne is pictured as being surrounded by a sea, representing our physical separation from Him, whereas later in the book "there is no more sea" or separation: Rev. 4.6, 21.1
 B. It is a sweet and pleasant soil because the Lamb is standing upon it: Rev. 14.1
 C. All the unpleasant things, such as grief, care, and toil which are often represented by darkness, will not be there because "there is no night there": Rev. 21.25

V. Stanza 5 focuses upon the inhabitants of heaven
"Thy saints are crowned with glory great; They see God face to face;
They triumph still, they still rejoice; Most happy is their case."
 A. The saints of all ages will be there and they shall reign forever and ever: Rev. 22.5
 B. They shall see God, who is the temple and the light of the city, face to face: Rev. 21.22-23, 22.3-4
 C. There, they shall be finally and completely victorious: Rev. 15.1-2

VI. Stanza 6 focuses upon the hope of heaven
"Jerusalem, my happy home, Would God I were in thee!
Would God my woes were at an end, Thy joys that I might see!"
 A. There are passages where Jerusalem is used to represent the church on earth, but since the eternal resting place of God’s church will be in heaven, the spiritual Jerusalem of this time can be thought of as foreshadowing the Jerusalem above: Gal. 4.26
 B. It is this place where our hope is reserved: 1 Pet. 1.3-5
 C. Therefore, it is to heaven that we look for the Savior: Phil. 3.20-21

     CONCL.: One book in my collection has an altered version of stanza
6 (possibly due to different translations):
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, God grant that I may see
Thine endless joy, and of the same Partaker ever be."
Some have criticized the medieval monastic mindset of being too "other-worldly." From a Biblical standpoint, there is certainly much for which we can rightly criticize monasticism and monks. However, their writings which express a longing to leave this "low land of sin and suffering" to be with Christ in His eternal home can be useful in reminding me that I need to have a greater desire for "Jerusalem, My Happy Home."


2 thoughts on ““Jerusalem, My Happy Home”

  1. This is a troublesome hymn. First: because it competes with Judaism by claiming the true understanding of Jerusalem/Zion/Israel/Heaven to refer to "Christianity" in contradistinction to the "Old Covenant". It reflects the animosities of the first century between Jews who followed Jesus as the Messiah and other Jews who didn't (the "synagogue of Satan").
    Secondly: It is steeped in Pharisaeic theology which is escapist by definition, world-denying, world-weary.
    The only way to redeem this hymn is to yank it into the present, militant church. It's the community of believers who constitute "Jerusalem"; it's in the here and now that the Kingdom of God is realized, that music and songs bring us closer to God who wants us to be His children. This world is my happy home, here I will sing God's praises, now I will triumph over the powers of the "old Adam", here I shall partake of the joys of the gospel of Jesus.
    It is time for the church to wake up and dump its pathological endtime fantasies in favor of a robust proclamation of the "salvability" of man.

  2. You are certainly entitled to your opinion about this hymn, but I would venture to say that not all, or even most, believers necessarily share it. The Bible itself talks about the "New Jerusalem" (Rev. 21:2), referring to the eternal home which God has prepared for His people in heaven, for which Christians hope (1 Pet. 1:3-5), and this is simply the theme of the song.


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