“Safe Within the Vail”

"Which hope we have…which entereth into that within the veil" (Heb. 6:19)

     INTRO.: A song which encourages us to look forward to the realization of that hope which enters into that within the veil is "Safe Within the Vail." The text was written by E. Adams. The tune was composed by J. M. Evans. I have not been able to find any further information on either the author, the composer, or the song, except that one website says that it was included in Sacred Songs and Solos, Revised and Enlarged. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth cenetury for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies and the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs both edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by Will W. Slater; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.

     The song pictures heaven as a safe harbor into which we sail after the storms of life are over.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the land ahead
"’Land ahead!’ its fruits are waving O’er the hills of fadeless green,
And the living waters laving Shores where heavenly forms are seen."
 A. Heaven is referred to in scripture as a land or country which the righteous desire: Heb. 11:15-16
 B. It is described as having hills of fadeless green because the tree of life blooms year round: Rev. 22:2
 C. Living waters from the river of life lave its shores: Rev. 22:1

II. Stanza 2 talks about the blessed inhabitants
"Onward, bark; the cape I’m rounding. See the blessed wave their hands;
Hear the harps of God resounding From the bright immortal bands."
 A. Rounding the cape would seem to be a figurative expression referring to death: Heb. 9:27
 B. After death, when the Lord returns, we shall see the blessed wave their hands because the righteous dead will be raised, the living dead will be changed, and we shall rise together to meet the Lord: 1 Cor. 15:51-52, 1 Thess. 4:16-17
 C. We shall also hear the harps of God resounding, symbolic of the beautiful sound of the singing of angels: Rev. 14:1-2

III. Stanza 3 talks about the sunny shores
"There, let go the anchor, riding On this calm and silvery bay.
Seaward fast the tide is gliding; Shores in sunlight stretch away."
 A. The crew of a ship puts out an anchor to stabilize it and then lets the anchor go when they desire to move : Acts 27:29, 40
 B. The scene here is that as the bark nears the shore, the anchor that holds it back is loosed so that it can be be driven into the calm and silvery bay, symbolizing the rest that the righteous will have: Rev. 14:13
 C. Those shores will be bathed in sunlight because the glory of God Himself and the Lamb will illuminate it: Rev. 21:23

IV. Stanza 4 talks about the Rock of our salvation
"Now we’re safe from all temptation; All the storms of life are past.
Praise the Rock of our salvation; We are safe at home at last."
 A. In that heavenly country, the saints will be safe from all temptations and storms of life, because all such things as cause tears, sorrow, crying, and pain will be done away: Rev. 21:1-4
 B. There Jesus Himself will be the Rock of our salvation: Ps. 89:26
 C. And then we shall be safe at home at last in that city which we have sought: Heb. 13:14

     CONCL.: The chorus completes the thought of the ship sailing safely into the eternal harbor.
"Rocks and storms I’ll fear no more, When on that eternal shore;
Drop the anchor! furl the sail! I am safe within the vail!"
Some have criticized many modern hymnbooks among churches of Christ as having too many songs about heaven. It is true that perhaps some are overweighted, and since any book is necessarily limited in size as to the number of selections possibly the sheer number of songs about heaven does not leave enough room for a lot more of the great hymns of praise.  Balance is necessary. However, because we are to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth, there can be nothing wrong with focusing our attention there by singing about that time when we shall be "Save Within the Vail."


3 thoughts on ““Safe Within the Vail”

  1. Do you know any recording of the song “Safe within the veil”? I love that song and would love to hear it sung. Thanks so much.
    Hugh Price

  2. I have an acapalla group that I’m trying to talk into recording it as we speak. This song was used at all my grandparents, parents and my only brother’s funeral. We will see what the answer is before long.

  3. The story behind this hymn was told by Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth in their book The Story of the Hymns and Tunes (1906: copyright by American Tract Society and published by George H. Doran Company, New York City, NY; pp. 367-369).
    The burden of this hymn was suggested by the dying words of John Adams, one of the crew of the English ship Bounty who in 1789 mutinied, set the captain and officers adrift, and ran the vessel to a tropical island, where they burned her. In a few years vice and violence had decimated the wicked crew, who had exempted themselves from all divine and human restraint, until the last man alive was left with only native women and half-breed children for company. His true name was Alexander Smith, but he had changed it to John Adams.
    The situation forced the lonely Englishman to a sense of solemn responsibility, and in bitter remorse, he sought to retrieve his wasted life, and spent the rest of his exile in repentance and repentant works. He found a Bible in one of the dead seamen’s chests, studied it, and organized a community on the Christian plan. A new generation grew up around him, reverencing him as governor, teacher, preacher, and judge, and speaking his language—and he was wise enough to exercise his authority for the common good, and never abuse it.
    Pitcairn’s Island became “the Paradise of the Pacific.” It has not yet belied its name. Besides its opulence of rural beauty and natural products, its inhabitants, now the third generation from the “mutineer missionary,” are a civilized community without the vices of civilization. There is no licentiousness, no profanity, no Sabbath-breaking, no rum or tobacco—and no sickness.
    John Adams died in 1829—after an island residence of forty years. In his extreme age, while he lay waiting for the end, he was asked how he felt in view of the final voyage.
    “Land ahead!” murmured the old sailor—and his last words were, “Rounding the Cape—into the harbor.”
    That the veteran’s death-song should be perpetuated in sacred music is not strange.
    Land ahead! Its fruits are waving
    O’er the hills of fadeless green;
    And the living waters laving
    Shores where heavenly forms are seen.
    Rock and storms I’ll fear no more,
    When on that eternal shore;
    Drop the anchor! Furl the sail!
    I am safe within the veil.
    Onward, bark! The cape I’m rounding;
    See, the blessed wave their hands;
    Hear the harps of God resounding
    From the bright immortal bands.
    The authorship of the hymn is credited to Rev. E. Adams—whether or not a descendent of the Island Patriarch we have no information. It was written about 1869.
    The ringing melody that bears the words was composed by John Miller Evans, born Nov. 30, 1825; died Jan. 1, 1892. The original air—with a simple accompaniment—was harmonized by Hubert P. Main, and published in Winnowed Hymns in 1873.
    NOTE: I might add that Hubert Platt Main was the son of Sylvester (Vet) Main, childhood friend of Fanny J. Crosby, who worked with William B. Bradbury and co-founded the Biglow and Main Publishing Company of New York City. Hubert worked in the firm as a music editor, copyright expert, and sometime composer and arranger.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s