ON JORDAN’S STORMY BANKS I STAND written in 1787
Jordan’s banks are rarely stormy… so it might have made more sense to most to entitle this hymn “On Jordan’s Muddy Banks” or “On Jordan’s Rugged Banks”. But, Samuel Stennett, who wrote this song, had never seen the Jordan River. And, the song is not literally about the Jordan River, but about what that river represents… what separates us from our Promised Land.
Samuel was born near London, England in 1727. His father was the minister of the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Little Wild Street. Samuel succeeded his father as minister in 1758, a position he held until his death in 1795.
It is believed Stennett authored 39 hymns. More than any other of Samuel’s hymns, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” – which was published under the title “Promised Land” – found enormous popularity, especially among 19th-century American Methodists. It was sung in camp meetings and brush arbors, and also found its way into the 1835 hymnal, Southern Harmony, and is part of the American shape note tradition.
As the children of Israel looked forward to crossing the Jordan River after years of wandering in the wilderness, so the Christian realizes this life is only a wilderness compared to what lies ahead.
Read this hymn, and let it remind you of Heaven that lies before you!
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye
to Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land;
Oh, who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land.
O the transporting, rapturous scene that rises to my sight!
Sweet fields arrayed in living green, and rivers of delight! Refrain
There generous fruits that never fail, on trees immortal grow;
there rocks and hills, and brooks and vales, with milk and honey flow. Refrain
O’er all those wide extended plains shines one eternal day;
there God the Son forever reigns, and scatters night away. Refrain
No chilling winds or poisonous breath can reach that healthful shore;
sickness and sorrow, pain and death, are felt and feared no more. Refrain
When I shall reach that happy place, I’ll be forever blest,
for I shall see my Father’s face, and in His bosom rest. Refrain
Filled with delight my raptured soul would here no longer stay;
though Jordan’s waves around me roll, fearless I’d launch away. Refrain