RING THE BELLS OF HEAVEN written in 1863
Pastor William Orcott Cushing, the writer of this hymn, was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1823. After many successful years in the pastorate, he was depressed. He had lost his voice not long after his wife died. All the joy had been taken out of his life. His ministry was gone, and he wondered if his life had a purpose any more. In this time of despair, he prayed, “Lord, give me something to do for Thee.”
Then he was asked to write some hymns. When they were successful, he was asked to write more. Musicians began sending him tunes, and asking him to write words that fit them. One day, he received a tune from George Root, a famous 19th-century composer. Root had written the popular Civil War song, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching”. Now Root had sent Cushing a tune, and asked that words be put to it.
Cushing couldn’t get the tune out of his mind (and it IS a catchy tune!). But, he didn’t know what words should fit. Should this tune be for a secular song or a sacred song? Should it be a song for children or for adults? As he played the tune, it sounded like it would be good for Sunday School. Then the words “ring the bells of Heaven” came to his mind. He thought of angels rejoicing over even one person coming to Christ in salvation.
Read this hymn today. And I pray Heaven’s bells have rung for you!
Ring the bells of Heaven! There is joy today
for a soul, returning from the wild!
See! The Father meets him out upon the way,
welcoming His weary, wand’ring child.
Glory! Glory! How the angels sing!
Glory! Glory! How the voices (loud harps) ring!
’Tis the ransomed army, like a mighty sea, pealing forth the anthem of the free.
Ring the bells of Heaven! There is joy today,
for the wand’rer now is reconciled.
Yes, a soul is rescued from his sinful way,
and is born anew, a ransomed child.
Ring the bells of Heaven! Spread the feast today!
Angels, swell the glad, triumphant strain!
Tell the joyful tidings; bear it far away,
for a precious soul is born again.