"Shall We Gather At the River"

Multi-talented Roberty Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist, and a music editor at Biglow Publishing Company. Lowry once said, “I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative, receptive congregation than write a hymn,” yet he wrote nearly 500 hymns and gospel songs, including “Shall We Gather At the River,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Low in the Grave,” and “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”

The tune is named HANSON PLACE in reference to the Hanson Place Baptist Church Lowry was serving when he wrote this hymn.  The text refers to the scripture passage that says,  “Then the angel showed me the river of life, as clear as crystal, flowing form the throne of God and of the Lord…” (Revelation 22:1)

Lowry described the writing of the hymn this way:

“One af­ter­noon in Ju­ly, 1864, when I was pas­tor at Han­son Place Bap­tist Church, Brook­lyn, the wea­ther was op­press­ive­ly hot, and I was ly­ing on a lounge in a state of phys­ic­al ex­haust­ion…My imag­in­a­tion be­gan to take it­self wings. Vi­sions of the fu­ture passed be­fore me with start­ling vi­vid­ness. The im­ag­ery of the apoc­a­lypse took the form of a ta­bleau. Bright­est of all were the throne, the heav­en­ly ri­ver, and the ga­ther­ing of the saints…I be­gan to won­der why the hymn writ­ers had said so much about the ‘riv­er of death’ and so lit­tle about the ‘pure wa­ter of life, clear as crys­tal, pro­ceed­ing out of the throne of God and the Lamb.’ As I mused, the words be­gan to con­struct them­selves. They came first as a quest­ion of Christ­ian in­quiry, ‘Shall we ga­ther?’ Then they broke in chor­us, “Yes, we’ll ga­ther.” On this quest­ion and an­swer the hymn de­vel­oped it­self. The mu­sic came with the hymn.”

Shall We Gather at the River
Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain:
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

Refrain

Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

Refrain

At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.

Refrain

Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

Refrain

2 Comments

  1. Becky Harrell says:

    Thanks for this. I have already selected this for the future when God calls first either me or my Mom. Blessings Becky

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    1. Gail Masinda says:

      Thanks, Becky. As each year goes by, I have greater appreciation of the message of hope and assurance in this song.

      Like

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