Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pearly White City

The words and music of The Pearly White City were written in 1902 by Arthur Forrest Ingler (1873-1935).[i] The hymn paints a wonderful picture of heaven from the book of Revelation – a “holy and beautiful” place for which the God’s people long. Biblical references or allusions include Revelation 1:9; 5:8-10; 14:13; 21:2; 21:4; 21:18; 22:3-5; and 22:15. According to some sources, this song was first introduced at the Metropolitan Church Association in Chicago, Illinois. The Metropolitan Church Association was a Holiness reaction within the Methodist Church against the move toward the Social Gospel.  The hymn looks to heaven, the holy city that John saw—the city of God, rather than the cities of the earth.  The rich and satisfied may find their delights in the cities of this earth, but the poor and afflicted saints of God find their joy in “watching, waiting, and longing, for the white city that’s soon coming down.”

1. There’s a holy and beautiful city
Whose builder and ruler is God;
John saw it descending from heaven,
When Patmos, in exile, he trod;
Its high, massive wall is of jasper,
The city itself is pure gold;
And when my frail tent here is folded,
Mine eyes shall its glory behold.

In that bright city, pearly white city,
I have a mansion, an harp, and a crown;
Now I am watching, waiting, and longing,
For the white city that’s soon coming down.

2. No sin is allowed in that city
And nothing defiling nor mean;
No pain and no sickness can enter,
No crepe on the doorknob is seen;
Earth’s sorrows and cares are forgotten,
No tempter is there to annoy;
No parting words ever are spoken,
There’s nothing to hurt or destroy.

3. No heartaches are known in that city,
No tears ever moisten the eye;
There’s no disappointment in heaven,
No envy and strife in the sky;
The saints are all sanctified wholly,
They live in sweet harmony there;
My heart is now set on that city,
And some day its blessings I’ll share.

4. My loved ones are gathering yonder,
My friends too are passing away,
And soon I shall join their bright number,
And dwell in eternity’s day;
They’re safe now in glory with Jesus,
Their trials and battles are past.
They overcame sin and the devil,[ii]
They’ve reached that fair city at last.

[i] The Pearly White City appeared as No. 14 in Burning Bush Songs, No. 1 (Chicago, IL: Metropolitan Church Association, 1902), under the title The City That’s Coming Down. “Rev. 21:2” was referenced under the title. Ingler was the musical editor of this book, and had other songs in it. The Joy-Bells of Canaan: or, Burning Bush Songs, No. 2 (Waukesha, WI: Metropolitan Church Association, 1905) contains at least nine songs written or arranged by Ingler.
[ii] Usually “tempter” in most modern printings.

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