WHEN THE ROLL IS CALLED UP YONDER                             written in 1893

The Story

James Black (1856-1938) was a Methodist Sunday School teacher, and president of his church’s young people’s society in his church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Part of his duties as president was to call the roll each week. On one occasion, he was especially glad to see a particular young teen named Bessie present for their class. A few weeks before, James had seen her sitting on the front steps of her house, and he had invited her to come to visit their group. He knew her father was an alcoholic and she had no Christian training at home.

But one Sunday evening, after attending for a few weeks, she didn’t answer the roll call. He called her name again… and was told she had become very ill. James later remembered he used that night’s roll call as an opportunity to make the point concerning how sad it would be if the Roll were called for the Lamb’s Book of Life, and one should be absent.

That night, when James went home, the words to this gospel song came to him very quickly. In not much more than 15 minutes, he had written all 3 verses.

He soon learned the missing girl had pneumonia… and 10 days later she died.

James thought back to that roll call she missed at a gathering of their youth group… and could only hope she had heard enough to be present at the great roll call in Heaven.

The Song

Read this hymn, and – today – examine your own heart… and determine whether or not you will be able to answer “present” when God calls your name.

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
when the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.


When the roll, is called up yonder, when the roll, is called up yonder,
when the roll, is called up yonder, when the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.

On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
and the glory of His resurrection share;
when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.  (Refrain)

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.  (Refrain)


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