Hymn 128
(tune: In the Sweet By and By)

The opening song on my CD, Echoes From the Trail, is Hymn 128 from the Cherokee Hymn Book, a song of baptism in the Cherokee lyrics. But first let me tell you about the tune to which I sing it. The story is told by Sanford Fillmore Bennett, who wrote the lyrics for the English version, In the Sweet By and By (first published 1868).

“Mr Webster [Joseph P. Webster], like many musicians, was of an exceedingly nervous and sensitive nature, and subject to periods of depression, in which he looked upon the dark side of all things in life. I had learned his peculiarities so well that on meeting him I could tell at a glance if he was melancholy, and had found that I could rouse him up by giving him a new song to work on.

“He came into my place of of business (in Elkhorn, Wisconsin), walked down to the stove, and turned his back on me without speaking. I was at my desk. Turning to him, I said, ‘Webster, what is the matter now?’ ‘It’s no matter,’ he replied, ‘it will be all right by and by.’ The idea of the hymn came to me like a flash of sunlight, and I replied, ‘The Sweet By and By! Why would not that make a good hymn?’ ‘Maybe it would,’ he said indifferently. Turning to my desk I penned the words of the hymn as fast as I could write. I handed the words to Webster. As he read his eyes kindled, and stepping to the desk he began writing the notes. Taking his violin, he played the melody and then jotted down the notes of the chorus. It was not over thirty minutes from the time I took my pen to write the words before two friends with Webster and myself were singing the hymn.”

In Cherokee, the first verse of Hymn 128 tells of Jesus being baptized in the River Jordan and how Jesus praised Jehovah (Yi-ho-wa in Cherokee) as He rose from the water. It then asks us to cleanse our hearts to have a place for Him to live. The final verse asks that we be taught beautiful songs to play for Jesus.

I chose this song to open my CD because I love the foot-stomping tempo. It’s hard not to have that rhythm touch you.

Listen to a sample of this song here: