Beloved Hymns: Sweet By and By
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.1
In 1868, a pharmacist named Sanford Fillmore Bennett was filling prescriptions and handling sales at his apothecary in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. His friend, Joseph Webster, entered the store. Joseph was a local musician, vocalist, violinist, and amateur composer who suffered from periods of depression. The two men had occasionally collaborated on hymns and songs, Sanford writing the words and Joseph the music.
On this particular day, Joseph was unusually blue and his face was long. Looking up, Sanford asked, "What is the matter now?"
"It's no matter," Joseph replied, "it will be all right by and by."
An idea for a hymn hit Sanford like a flash of sunlight. Sitting at his desk, he began writing as fast as he could. The words came almost instantly. Two customers entered the drugstore, but no attempt was made to assist them– Sanford was too absorbed in his poem– so they walked on over to the stove and visited with Joseph. Finally, Sanford rose and joined them, handing a sheet of paper to his friend.
"Here is your prescription, Joe," he said. "I hope it works." Webster read the words aloud:
There's a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us a Dwelling Place there.
We shall meet on that Beautiful Shore.
We shall meet on that Beautiful Shore.2
Instantly a tune suggested itself, and Joseph jotted down some notes. Picking up his fiddle, he played his melody over a time or two, then said to the others, "We four make a good male quartet. Let's try the new song and see how it sounds."
As "Sweet By and By" was being sung for the first time, another customer, R.R. Crosby, entered the store. "Gentleman", he said, "I never heard that song before but it is immortal." He was right. For over 100 years we've been singing an immortal hymn that was written in less than thirty minutes in a drugstore.3
Suggested Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Oh! How I long for the day when we meet you on Heaven's beautiful shore. On that day, all of the worries, and sorrows of this world will be long forgotten! Thank you for the gift of Salvation that allows me to look forward to the Sweet By and By. In Jesus' name, Amen.