The Story Behind…“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”

The Story Behind…
“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”

The president of a certain Young People’s Society once chanced to meet a girl of fourteen, poorly dressed and a drunkard’s daughter, whom he invited to join the Society and to attend Sunday School. She did this, and attended for a time, but one evening at a dedication meeting, when the Society’s roll of members was called, and each member responded with a text, there was no response from this girl.

Remarking on her absence, the president, Mr. J. M. Black, spoke of the sadness of anyone being absent when the names were called of those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and then added the prayer, “O God, when my own name is called up yonder, may I be there to respond!”

Wanting something suitable to sing on this occasion, Mr. Black searched the hymn book, but could find nothing, and after the meeting was ended, on his way home he still kept wishing for such a hymn.

On reaching home the words of the first stanza of a new hymn came to his mind in full.

Within fifteen minutes the two following verses were also written down, and then Mr. Black turned to the piano. “I played the music,” he said, “just as it is found today in the hymn books, note for note, and I have never dared to change a single word or note of the song.”

The three stanzas of this well-known and frequently sung hymn are:

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.

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.

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

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.